Nigerian forces hunt down rebels

MAIDUGURI - Security forces in northern Nigeria exchanged gunfire yesterday with the remnants of an Islamic sect behind unrest that has killed more than 180 people, but the authorities said they had routed the rebels.

MAIDUGURI - Security forces in northern Nigeria exchanged gunfire yesterday with the remnants of an Islamic sect behind unrest that has killed more than 180 people, but the authorities said they had routed the rebels.

Bursts of gunfire rang out in the northern city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, where the army on Tuesday shelled parts of a compound belonging to Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the militant Boko Haram sect.

Soldiers have been going from door to door and military helicopters hovered above the city to help track down Yusuf's followers. A police station was torched late on Wednesday and local residents said they were still too afraid to venture out.

"Security personnel have succeeded in dislodging the militants and I urge everyone to go about their normal duties," Borno state governor Ali Modu Sheriff said.

"Anybody who harbours them will be dealt with according to the law."

The violence erupted when members of Boko Haram, which wants a wider adoption of Islamic sharia law, were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of planning an attack on a police station.

Yusuf's supporters, armed with machetes, knives, home-made hunting rifles and petrol bombs, have since attacked churches, police stations, prisons and government buildings in rioting which spread across several states. - Reuters

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