Nigeria's military has pushed back an attack on the northeastern town Gombe by Boko Haram. The Islamic extremists have warned residents not to participate in the country's postponed elections in March.
Heavily armed Boko Haram militants attacked the northeastern Nigerian city of Gombe but were later repelled, a government security source says.
Two air force jets joined soldiers in attacking the rebels after they assaulted Gombe in the morning. According to the residents, the Boko Haram fighters left in a convoy of vehicles carrying dozens of corpses.
"They were dropping copies of papers with messages written in Hausa warning people not to participate in the coming elections, lest they risk being killed," said resident Malam Hassan.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the message in which Boko Haram warned that its fighters will attack all polling stations in the March 28 elections. The Boko Haram statement also said residents should not assist the army. The Islamist extremists also pledged not to attack those residents who stayed out of their fight against the government.
"We are calling on you all to come and join us in the Jihad and embrace Islamic Sharia jurisprudence," said the papers dropped by Boko Haram.
Not an internal Nigerian conflict anymore
The insurgency caused by Boko Haram has spilled over borders into neighboring states.
On Friday, the group staged its first attack on Chadian territory. This brought the number of neighboring countries roped into what had previously been an internal Nigerian conflict to three.
Cameroon and Niger have also been attacked. Along with Benin, all three have vowed to contribute to a regional force against Boko Haram. The question of funding for the force, however, remains unanswered.
Boko Haram's Islamist insurgency killed 10,000 people last year compared to 2,000 in the four previous years, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations. The United Nation reported that fighting has forced more than 200,000 people to seek refuge in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.