Fri, Jul 31, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Nigerian soldiers attack Islamist mosque, kill 100

AP , MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA

Security forces first shelled, then stormed the mosque and compound of an Islamist sect blamed for days of violence across northern Nigeria, killing more than 100 militants in a raging gunbattle.

The bodies of barefoot young men littered the streets of Maiduguri yesterday morning as the army conducted a house-to-house manhunt on the outskirts of the city for sect members. Police said most of the dead were Islamist fighters.

Sect leader Mohammed Yusuf escaped along with about 300 followers but his deputy was killed in Wednesday night's bombardment, army commander Major General Saleh Maina said.

An Associate Press reporter watched soldiers, under fire, shoot their way into the mosque in Maiduguri on Wednesday and then rake those holed up inside with gunfire. The reporter later counted about 50 bodies inside the building and another 50 in the courtyard outside.

The militants, armed with homemade hunting rifles, bows and arrows and scimitars, were no match for the government forces.

Another five corpses were just inside a large house near the mosque. Maina pointed to the body of a plump, bearded man and said it was the Boko Haram sect's vice chairman, Bukar Shekau.

“The mission has been accomplished,” Maina said.

Militants seeking to impose Islamic Shariah law throughout the multi-religious country attacked police stations, churches, prisons and government buildings in a wave of violence that began on Sunday in Borno state and quickly spread to three other states in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.

It is not known how many scores of people have been killed, wounded and arrested. Relief official Apollus Jediel said on Wednesday that at least 4,000 people had been displaced by the fighting.

The epicenter of the violence has been the Boko Haram sect's headquarters in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, which was bombarded on Wednesday.

Maina said his troops would fire mortar shells later yesterday to destroy what is left of the sprawling compound, which stretches more than 4km.

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