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Fighting rages as Nigerian troops bid to rout sect

world Updated: Jul 29, 2009 14:51 IST

AFP
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Fighting raged through the night around a Islamist militant stronghold in northern Nigeria after three days of clashes with the security forces that left at least 250 dead, residents said on Wednesday.

"We kept hearing sounds of gunshots throughout the night. I believe the moonlight enabled them to fight," local resident Abdul Mimini Hassan told AFP by telephone in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state.

Hassan said that the firing subsided at around 4:30 am (0900 GMT) in the Bayan Quarters neighbourhood.

But it appeared the clashes had spread to the adjacent neighbourhood of Ungwani Shamu, about one kilometre(half-mile) away, with local residents suspecting the military of tracking down remnants of the Islamist sect.

"Now I can hear sporadic gunshots outside our neighbourhood, and we are about a kilometre away from the Taliban base," Hassan said.

"Although we can't go out because of the clashes and the risk involved, I believe the fighting is between pockets of members of the Taliban and the military."

Most of the fatalities of three days of fighting in this northern city are thought to be members of an Islamist militant group inspired by the Taliban in Afghanistan that wants to see an Islamist state in northern Nigeria.