Nigerian forces fight Islamists near lawmakers' Abuja quarters

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 20, 2013 7:43 AM

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian forces and members of Boko Haram clashed in a shoot out near the main residential compound for lawmakers in Abuja on Friday, state security services said, the first clash involving Islamist militants in the capital this year.

A security team was searching for weapons after a tip-off from arrested members of Boko Haram, a militant group that wants to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria and has been responsible for hundreds of killings this year.

Boko Haram is seen as the gravest security threat to Africa's top oil producer. Although its activities are mostly located hundreds of miles away from its southern oil fields, its small presence in the political capital worries officials.

"Some persons were injured and 12 others have been arrested in connection with the incident," said a statement from state security services, Nigeria's secret service.

"No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms, than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements," the statement said.

The last known attack by the sect in Abuja was in November last year, when gunmen stormed a special anti-robbery police barracks, freeing 30 prisoners and killing two police officers. That attack was claimed by Ansaru, a Boko Haram offshoot.

By far the most high-profile attack in the capital was in August 2011, when a suicide car bomb tore through the U.N. building, killing 24 people and gaining Boko Haram international notoriety.

In April last year, a suicide car bomb struck the Abuja office of newspaper This Day, killing two people.

The bulk of Islamist attacks occur in the remote northeast, where Boko Haram had its first major uprising in 2009.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Tim Cocks and Alison Williams)