Islamists cleared from Rann

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Nigeria’s military recaptured north-eastern town Rann after it was overrun by Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) insurgents a day earlier, weeks ahead of an election in which security is a key issue.

Nigerian government forces and residents fled during the ISWA attack as militants set buildings ablaze. Troops fought back and regained control early on Tuesday, military and police sources said.

“Boko Haram invaded Rann at about 4pm on Monday. The battle continued for about three hours. Our troops retreated and later returned to fight back,” said a soldier speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on promises to defeat the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in the north-east.

ISWA, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, launched a series of attacks in recent weeks, renewing debate about security in the run-up to elections on February 16.

In December, ISWA took Baga – Nigerian headquarters of a multi-national force formed by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger to fight the extremists – and more than 30,000 people fled.

The military launched a counter-offensive last week and retook the town, saying it gave ISWA a “bloody nose”.