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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

NIGERIA: Seven armeed Islamic militants killed near Cameroon border

KANO, 8 January 2004 (IRIN) - Nigerian police said on Thursday that vigilante groups had shot dead seven Islamic fundamentalists belonging to the group which staged an abortive uprising in the northeast of the country last month as they attempted to cross the border to Cameroon.

Assistant Inspector General Fatai Fagbemi, the officer in charge of investigations into the Sunna Wal Jamma (Followers of the Prophet) fundamentalist group, which attacked police stations in three towns in northeastern Nigeria to seize guns and ammunition, said the militants were killed on Monday night in the village of Damboa near the Cameroon border.

Fagbemi said a group of 10 Islamic militants entered the village and shot dead one of the vigilantes who challenged them. Seven of the militants were then killed and the other three were arrested. Fagbemi said they were carrying bags which contained AK-47 automatic rifles and ammunition.

The latest incident brought to 17 the number of people killed since the uprising began in mid-December. Radio Nigeria said police had so far arrested 47 of the militants, who are followers of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan and seek to establish a strict Islamic state in Nigeria.

Fagbemi said those in detention included seven militants who had fled to Niger, where they had been arrested and returned to Nigeria by the local authorities.

He said police were still working to track down other members of the group who were "still on the loose."

"From our preliminary investigations, the majority of the members are children of notable Nigerians," Fagbemi added.

The Sunna Wal Jamma group has been in exisentence for two years. Most of its members are students at universities and polytechnics in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria.

Fagbemi said police had not yet discovered whether the group had any powerful local or foreign patrons.

After seizing the towns of Geidam and Kanamma near the northern frontier with Niger on 23 December, the militants were confronted by a joint force of riot police and soldiers in Kanamma on 31 December.

Following that clash a column of the insurgents drove south to attack police stations in Damatura, the capital of Yobe state, where a further battle ensued and several were captured. Fagbemi said two of the 20 prisoners currently undergoing police interrogation in Damatura were women.

The remnants of the insurgent column were ambushed by police on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of neighbouring Borno state on 1 January.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict



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