NIGERIA'S army has claimed to have retaliated for a wave of attacks by Boko Haram after 11 members of the radical Islamist group were killed by soldiers.
The army's Joint Task Force, responsible for combating one of the biggest national security threats of the last decade, said the Islamists were killed in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri. Boko Haram was born in this remote area, near the frontier with Chad, where Islamist sentiment has been gaining ground.
Ten days ago, Boko Haram killed at least 185 people in eight separate strikes by suicide bombers and gunmen in the northern city of Kano. The incident on Saturday was the first time that security forces have hit back since those attacks.
Soldiers were carrying out a "cordon-and-search" operation in Maiduguri when an "exchange of fire" took place, an army spokesman said. During the battle, 11 of the extremists were killed, he added.
A spokesman for Boko Haram confirmed the deaths, but said that its members had been taken from their homes and killed. In the past, the army's heavy-handed tactics have claimed hundreds of lives and helped to bolster popular support for Boko Haram in the largely Muslim northern states.
Commentators say that military deployments risk causing more resentment and becoming counterproductive. Violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta has been significantly reduced by negotiations with militant groups and amnesties for their fighters, accompanied by monthly payments for those who lay down their arms. Some argue that using this model might work with Boko Haram.
However, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made a public offer of "dialogue" last week, only to be turned down by one of Boko Haram's leading figures on Saturday. (©Daily Telegraph, London)