Protesting Nigerian troops fire into air at northeastern airport

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian troops staging a protest at the airport in the northeastern city of Maiduguri on Sunday shot into the air for around four hours, soldiers and local people said.

There were no reports of any injuries.

The soldiers were protesting their against redeployment to a restive part of the northeast to fight militants from the jihadist Boko Haram group, which for nine years has waged a bloody insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in the region.

Discontent in some parts of the military is one of the challenges related to the insurgency faced by President Muhammadu Buhari months ahead of a February election he plans to contest in which security looks set to be a campaign issue.

The soldiers - who witnesses said were shooting for around four hours from 06:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) - said they were protesting against their redeployment from their base in Maiduguri, state capital of Borno, to Marte, a restive district in the state.

“We are angry and that is why we are shooting. Why are they taking us again to another place after spending about four years?” said a soldier, adding that they were previously told they would only fight insurgents for a maximum of three years.

A military spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Henrietta Yakubu, a spokeswoman for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said she was told the protest had ended. “The situation has normalized,” she said, adding that the protest had not forced the airport to shut down.

Reuters was unable to independently verify whether the protest had ended.

The unrest comes amid problems within the military’s ranks as the fight against Boko Haram continues, despite the government having said since December 2015 that they had technically been defeated.

In July a fourth commander in 14 months was named to lead the fight against the militants after a number of embarrassing defeats. Last week at least 15 soldiers and an official from Nigeria’s disaster agency were killed by suspected militants.

Reporting by Ola Lanre; Additional reporting and writing by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Susan Thomas