Nigeria’s military says it has killed as many as 38 fighters from the armed Boko Haram group during operations in the northeast of the country.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Colonel Mohammed Dole of the Nigerian army said the troops of 195 Battalion in Damboa “successfully repelled planned Boko Haram terrorists’ attack” on residents and a military camp in Damboa, in Borno state.
“In the early hours (0100 hours) of Thursday 9 January 2014, the insurgents attempted to attack Damboa to cause havoc and mayhem.
“But due to timely information and gallantry displayed by the troops, the attack was repelled and inflicted heavy casualty on the terrorists,” Dole said.
While 38 fighters died, others fled with “various degrees of injuries”, he said.
“Combined ground troops and Nigerian Air Force aircraft are tactically pursuing the fleeing terrorists in the ongoing operation in the general area of Damboa and surrounding villages.”
Three vehicles were destroyed and one of them was found to have cylinders and improvised explosive devices.
Weapons and ammunition, including machine guns, were also recovered.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, discussing the army’s operation from the northwestern state of Kaduna, said Thursday’s offensive was the biggest military operation against Boko Haram this year.
“The Nigerian government and army will say they are winning the war against Boko Haram. But what the Nigerians are asking is if the government is winning the war, why are these attacks happening?”
The US deemed Boko Haram a “foreign terrorist organisation” in November.
The group says it is fighting Western influence and wants to create an Islamic state in the country’s mainly Muslim north since 2009.
Nigeria’s government last year imposed a state of emergency in Borno and two other states, Yobe and Adamawa, in an attempt to stop the violence.
Attacks by the group killed more than 1,200 people between May and December.
The UN released figures in December, thought to be the first independent fatality figure to have emerged since President Goodluck Jonathan sent in thousands of troops to crush the group in May.
The toll included civilians, army personnel as well fighters killed by security forces repelling attacks.