MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian security forces fighting the Boko Haram Islamist sect in the northeast of the country said on Friday they had killed two commanders from the group and arrested eight other members in two separate incidents.
The sect has killed hundreds in attacks on security forces, government offices and churches since launching an uprising in 2009 with the aim of carving out an Islamic state.
Agents from the secret service stopped a car at a check point on the outskirts of Maiduguri on Wednesday and the occupants opened fire on them, said Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for joint military and police forces in the northeastern city.
He said security forces returned fire and killed the commanders.
"The two sect members were top commanders coordinating the sect activities in Mubi and Yola, in Adamawa and Yobe states," Musa said, adding that in a separate incident in Maiduguri eight Boko Haram suspects were arrested.
The details could not be independently verified and there was no immediate response from Boko Haram, which is based in Maiduguri.
Nigeria's biggest security threat, Boko Haram has managed large-scale, damaging assaults, including one in January where at least 186 people died in coordinated attacks in Kano, the north's biggest city.
This week, authorities said they had killed the sect's spokesman Abu Qaqa and another senior commander while members of Boko Haram were suspected of killing a former top prison warder and the attorney general Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.
It remains unclear if the loss of Qaqa will significantly weaken the sect or if it was indeed him.
Nigerian forces have previously claimed to have killed or captured him only for the militant to subsequently issue a statement denying it. No statement has been issued this week.
(Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Jason Neely)