Government troops and hundreds of residents have been forced to flee after an armed group overran a town and captured a military base in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state in an attack claimed by ISIL group, officials said.
Machinegun-wielding fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked the base in the town of Marte in the Lake Chad area overnight on Friday into Saturday, AFP reported.
“The priority now is to reclaim the base from the terrorists and an operation is under way.”
“We took a hit from ISWAP terrorists. They raided the base in Marte after a fierce battle.”
The extent of damage to the army was unclear.
An army statement said troops “tactically withdrew” to defend against an attack outside Marte. Troops had “effectively destroyed” seven gun trucks and “decimated” an unconfirmed number of attackers, it said.
The ISIL later posted a statement on its Amaq news channel on Telegram claiming responsibility for the attack.
Without giving further details, it said seven people had been killed, and one captured, and that its fighters had seized weapons, ammunition and six four-wheel-drive vehicles, as well as burning down the army barracks.
Marte remained under the control of the armed group on Saturday, Reuters reported.
ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, maintains camps on islands in Lake Chad – where Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad meet – and the area is known to be the group’s bastion.
The raid was seen as a “fightback” after recent losses – troops recently overran ISWAP’s second-largest camp in Talala village.
The town, 130km from the regional capital Maiduguri, was once considered the breadbasket of the Lake Chad region.
At least 36,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict since 2009 and violence has spread into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition.