FIGHTING RAGES ON

MAIDUGURI - Fighting raged for a fourth day running yesterday in northern Nigeria as troops tracked down remnants of an Islamist sect after clashes that have left at least 250 dead.

MAIDUGURI - Fighting raged for a fourth day running yesterday in northern Nigeria as troops tracked down remnants of an Islamist sect after clashes that have left at least 250 dead.

Sounds of gunfire were heard throughout the night in Maiduguri, the base of the self-styled Nigerian Taliban, after orders from President Umaru Yar'Adua for the armed forces to crush the movement "once and for all".

The home of the sect's alleged leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was shelled by forces on Tuesday evening, along with a mosque where many of his followers have gathered. Yusuf's fate is unclear.

Residents said it appeared that troops were now closing in on the last of the militants amid claims of summary executions by the security forces.

Abdul Mimini Hassan, a local resident, said gun battles continued throughout the night and were concentrated in the Bayan Quarters where Yusuf's home is located.

"We kept hearing the sound of gunshots throughout the night. I believe the moonlight enabled them to fight," he told AFP.

The fighting in Bayan subsided shortly before dawn but gunfire could still be heard in the adjacent neighbourhood of Ungwani Shamu.

Maiduguri has seen the worst of the unrest in northern Nigeria since clashes first erupted on Sunday in Bauchi state.

The first clashes broke out when police hit back at militants after a foiled attack on a police station that spread rapidly to neighbouring states. But most of the casualties appear to have been in Maiduguri. - Sapa-AFP

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