Nigerian Islamists attack barracks in volatile northeast: army

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:03am EST

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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Fighters from Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamist sect armed with anti-aircraft guns and grenade launchers attacked a barracks in the volatile northeast and battled soldiers for several hours, the military said.

The army said it used troops and planes to repel Friday's assault in the town of Bama, the second Islamist attack on a military base this month.

Boko Haram, which wants to set up an Islamic state, is seen as the main security threat to Africa's biggest oil producer.

"They were heavily armed ... We still don't have any clear details on the casualties," said Brigadier General Chris Olukolade by telephone.

"High-caliber weapons such as anti-aircraft and rocket-propelled guns were freely used in the attack that lasted several hours," he said earlier.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a coordinated strike on December 2 on the air force base and military barracks in the main northeastern city of Maiduguri.

It was first major assault this year on the heavily guarded city, which was also the birthplace of the radical Islamist movement ten years ago.

President Goodluck Jonathan launched an offensive against Boko Haram in May, centered on three states worst hit by the insurgency.

There was a pause in the violence before attacks resumed.

(Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; Additional reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja)

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