MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian troops killed 37 Boko Haram Islamist militants in combined air and ground strikes on one of their bases in the northeast, the military said on Tuesday.
The offensive on Monday targeted a camp in the remote area of Alagarno, a military statement said.
Nigerian forces have stepped up operations against the Islamist sect Boko Haram since May, when President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states in the northeast.
It has so far failed to quell an insurgency still seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil producing nation.
“The operation ... involved a coordinated ground and air assault by troops,” said the statement from Captain Aliyu Ibrahim Danja, spokesman for Nigerian troops in the northeast.
“A total of 37 terrorists were killed in the fire fight while several others fled with gunshot wounds. Arms and ammunitions were also recovered,” it added.
Boko Haram is fighting to establish a strictly Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria. While the offensive against it appears to have scattered the movement, it has also triggered reprisal attacks against civilians suspected of cooperating with the authorities.
Hundreds of people, mostly civilians, have been killed by the militants in the past three months.
Reporting by Lanre Ola; writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Tom Pfeiffer