Nigerian security forces and Islamist gunmen battled one another for several hours, trading gunfire and rockets in the northern cities of Kano and Maiduguri, it was reported Wednesday.
The violence was blamed on the radical sect Boko Haram, which has killed as many as 560 in a spate of attacks over the past six months, reported The Associated Press.
The heaviest fighting was in Maiduguri, where the army fired on suspected sect members for several hours and bomb blasts echoed through the city, according to witnesses. Military spokesperson Col. Victor Ebhaleme told AP and others that the 19 people killed Tuesday were all “Boko Haram terrorists” and the army suffered no casualties.
In Kano, suspected Boko Haram gunmen shot and killed a retired deputy inspector-general in Nigeria’s federal police, as well as two other police officers.
Before the fighting broke out, threats by the sect to attack the military, security agencies, and the media scared some residents in Maiduguri enough to leave, fearing the coming battle.
“Some residents of Lawan Bukar area in the Maiduguri metropolis were yesterday [seen] fleeing their homes to other parts of the town as a result of the renewed attacks and reported killings at night by gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram,” reported Nigeria’s The Nation newspaper.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language, claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing on a church in Bauchi last Sunday killing 15 and wounding many more.
It issued a strong warning to anyone that would try to stop their future attacks.
“The fact is that as soon as we complete our preparations and start launching attacks, nobody should persuade us to stop,” the group said, according to The Nation.