Nigerian security forces shot dead two suspected members of a radical Islamist sect in a gunbattle in the remote northeast, and three civilians were killed in the crossfire, police said.
The battle is one of the heaviest in the northeastern city of Maiduguri since an uprising by the radical Boko Haram sect last year which led to clashes with the security forces in which hundreds of people were killed.
“Two Boko Haram members were shot dead yesterday night in an exchange of fire with the security forces,” police spokesman Lawal Abdullahi said, Reuters reports.
“Three passengers in a bus that happened to be passing were also killed by stray bullets, while six others sustained injuries,” he said.
A series of attacks in recent months, mostly targeted killings of police officers and local traditional and religious figures, has raised fears that Boko Haram is staging a comeback.
The sect, whose name means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language, wants sharia (Islamic law) more widely applied across Africa’s most populous nation, which is roughly divided into a mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south.
It is unclear how many adherents the group has, but poverty, unemployment, and a lack of education have meant its leaders have managed to build a cult-like following who are as much violently anti-establishment as fervently religious.
The uprising just over a year ago began with attacks on symbols of authority including police stations and government offices, and the targets in recent months have also been largely non-religious.