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Nigerian troops kill 20 suspected militants

From Hassan John, For CNN
updated 5:32 AM EDT, Thu August 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Troops moved in on a meeting of Boko Haram, sparking a shootout, officials say
  • Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign of bombings
  • The Islamist group's name means "Western education is forbidden,"

Jos, Nigeria (CNN) -- Security forces killed 20 suspected members of the militant Islamic group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday, an army captain said.

Troops moved in on a meeting of the group, sparking a shootout, said the captain, who was not authorized to talk to the media.

"The Boko Haram gang, as soon as they saw the military arrive at the spot, they opened fire and the soldiers went into action. All of them were killed because they kept shooting and did not surrender or give up," he said.

One soldier was also killed in the violence, which took place in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, said the captain.

Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram?
Have militants found Nigeria's flaw?
Boko Haram's terrorizing of Nigeria

From its base in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign of bombings of Christian churches in Nigeria that have killed hundreds and wounded many more. The group is also blamed for an attack on a United Nations building in the Nigerian capital of Abuja last year that killed at least 23 people.

The group, whose name means "Western education is forbidden," has referred to itself as the "Nigerian Taliban." It seeks to overthrow the Nigerian government and replace it with a regime based on Islamic law.

U.S. officials have expressed concerns that the group is beginning to cooperate with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Northern Africa based affiliate of the group, and another al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, al Shabaab, to target American interests in Africa.

The United States in June designated as terrorists three senior members of Boko Haram. The announcement drew criticism from some on Capitol Hill who felt the State Department should have gone further by designating Boko Haram as a whole a terrorist entity.

The terrorist designation blocks all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction of the three individuals named, and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with, or for the benefit of, the three.

CNN's Jamie Crawford and Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report.

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