Soldiers fought off Islamist insurgents, allegedly Boko Haram members, who attempted to free captured comrades from a military barracks in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Friday, the military said.
Witnesses reported more than two hours of gunfire and explosions, starting at about 7:15am, from the direction of the Giwa barracks, where the army has detained hundreds of Islamist insurgent suspects.
“Pockets of terrorists, apparently in a move to boost their depleted stock of fighters, this morning attacked a military location in Maiduguri with a view to freeing their colleagues who are being held in detention,” a military statement said.
It said the attack had been repelled, with heavy casualties among the assailants, while four soldiers had been wounded.
Security experts say the military often exaggerates its own successes and plays down its casualties and those of civilians.
Boko Haram is the biggest security threat in Africa’s top oil exporter and the continent’s second-biggest economy.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram violence in the past six months, security sources say.
Human rights groups have said previously that Giwa barracks has been used to illegally detain and torture suspects — allegations denied by the Nigerian military.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in Nigeria on Friday that rights abuses committed by the security forces are increasing support for Boko Haram.
Violence in recent months has mostly been confined to rural areas of the poor and undeveloped northeast.
Boko Haram has attacked 40 villages this year alone, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, the New York-based Human Rights Watch organization said in a report on Friday.