MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian soldiers have killed 10 members of Islamist sect Boko Haram in the volatile northeast, the military said on Thursday, as President Goodluck Jonathan pursues a four-month-old offensive against resilient insurgents.
Over 230 people have been killed in violence linked to Boko Haram in the last six weeks, according to a Reuters count - one of the bloodiest periods since Jonathan declared a state of emergency and launched a military crackdown in three northeastern states in May.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose strict Islamic law in northern Nigeria, is considered the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil exporter and second largest economy.
The air force bombed two of Boko Haram’s camps in a remote and sandy region of Borno state on Tuesday before soldiers pursued fleeing insurgents, killing 10 in a gunfight, military spokesman Sagir Musa told reporters.
“Following air strikes and subsequent destruction of Boko camps at Mada ... some troops had an encounter with fleeing Boko Haram terrorists on the Maiduguri-Damboa road at about 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Tuesday,” he said.
“Ten terrorists lost their lives, while four AK-47 rifles, 250 rounds of assorted ammunition and 10 Boko Haram motorcycles were recovered and a soldier was wounded,” he added.
The military sometimes exaggerates its successes and plays down its own casualties and the deaths of civilians, according to residents of Borno and human rights groups.
Since an uprising in 2009, Boko Haram, which has several factions and an ill-defined leadership structure, has proven adept at withstanding military pressure.
The army has mounted wave after wave of attacks hoping to finish off Boko Haram but militants have typically retreated into the inaccessible desert, regrouped and rearmed and returned seemingly as strong as before.
Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Mark Heinrich