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Nigerian army claims 24 militants killed in battle

Military sources in Nigerian say they have scored a victory over radical Islamist group Boko Haram. Officials say 24 militant fighters were killed in heavy fighting in the northeastern town of Maiduguri.

Maiduguriwas under lockdown late on Tuesday after being rocked by violence in a confrontation between Islamist insurgents and government troops.

Members of Boko Haram were reported to have launched attacks with bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

"All the attacks were repelled. Twenty-four Boko Haram terrorists were killed," a military task force in the city said.

The statement said no civilians had been hurt and that only one of the military's own soldiers had been hurt, but the claims could not be independently verified.

The country's military has a reputation for playing down its own casualty figures and those of civilians, while exaggerating those of the enemy.

However, a worker at Borno State Specialist Hospital told the AP news agency that soldiers had dropped off 24 bodies there. The source said the dead had been identified by the military as Boko Haram members, adding that many of the corpses dressed in the long robes often worn by members of the sect.

According to the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 2,800 people have been killed in three years of fighting since the insurrection began.

Much of the fighting is in the poverty-stricken northeast of the country, bordering Niger and Chad.

In a report last week, HRW also said both the country's military and members of Boko Haram may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

rc/mz (AFP, Reuters)