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Nigerian Authorities say Islamist Sect Fleeing

By VOA News
30 July 2009

Nigerian authorities say they have an Islamist militant group on the run in northern Nigeria where clashes with the sect have left about 300 people dead since Sunday.

Officials in the Boro state capital of Maiduguri say they have been conducting a door-to-door search for the leader of the Boko Haram group, Mohammad Yusuf, and other members.

Reports from Maiduguri Thursday say machine-gun fire can still be heard as the army pounds the group's suspected hideouts. Army leaders say it is only a matter of time before the sect is destroyed.

At least 100 members of the radical movement, including its deputy leader, have been killed and scores more have fled Maiduguri, where fighting has been concentrated.

The militants fought back even as many fled, setting fire to a police station in Maiduguri late Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Nigerian forces attacked the sect headquarters containing a mosque and the destroyed the home of group leader Yusuf.

The violence began Sunday following the arrest of some Boko Haram leaders. For five days, the militants, who want northern Nigeria to adopt a strict interpretation of Islamic law, attacked police stations, churches, and government buildings.

Officials some 3,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

A dozen of Nigeria's 36 states have introduced strict Islamic law in the past decade. The country is roughly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with Islam predominant in the northern part of the country. Periodic clashes between the two populations have left thousands of people dead in recent years.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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