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Borno state officials say more than 20,000 people have fled to Cameroon in recent weeks amid the violence.
The military has claimed success in regaining control of the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. However, the area covers around 155,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) or one-sixth of the sprawling country. The rebellion poses the biggest threat in years to security in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
Soldiers say they have killed and arrested hundreds of fighters. But the crackdown, including attacks with fighter jets and helicopter gunships on militant camps, appears to have driven the extremists into rocky mountains with caves, from which they emerge to attack schools and markets.
The militants have increasingly targeted civilians, including health workers on vaccination campaigns, traders, teachers and government workers.
Farmers have been driven from their land by the extremists and by military roadblocks, raising the specter of a food shortage to add to the woes of a people already hampered by a dusk-to-dawn curfew and the military’s shutdown of cell phone service and ban on using satellite telephones.
Michelle Faul reported from Lagos. Associated Press writer Haruna Umar, in Maiduguri, contributed to this report.
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