LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria's Islamist sect Boko Haram stormed a prison in their northeastern heartland on Sunday, freeing 40 inmates, police said, in the latest of a string of attacks blamed on the group.
"There was an attack on the Yobe prison this morning, the Boko Haram sect attacked the prison through the Emir palace, 40 inmates escaped," said Patrick Egbuniwe, Yobe State police commissioner.
"They attacked with rifles, the police and the joint task force confronted them and the Boko Haram members that were shot were carried away by the sect."
He said two of the attackers were shot dead and some policemen were injured. Gun battles between sect members and security forces in Yobe's capital Damaturu killed 40 people on Tuesday last week.
Boko Haram has been blamed for several prison breaks in the past and one of the group's few demands has been that its imprisoned members should be freed.
The sect, which is based in the remote northeast, has rapidly overtaken militants in the oil-producing southern Niger Delta as the country's biggest security threat.
Months of gun and bomb attacks blamed on Boko Haram have killed hundreds since the movement started its uprising more than two years ago.
It is fighting to carve out an Islamic state in Nigeria - a country nearly evenly split between Muslims and Christians. Attacks on churches have intensified this month, sparking deadly religious violence in northern Kaduna state.