Nigerian troops kill 20 suspected militants

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,"

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.

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.

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Rescue workers carry the bodies of victims killed by multiple explosions and armed assailants in the Marhaba area of the northern Nigerian city of Kano into the morgue at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital, on January 21, 2012. Coordinated bomb attacks on January 20 targeting security forces and gun battles have killed at least 121 people in Nigeria's second-largest city of Kano, with bodies littering the streets.

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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.

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