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Nigerian forces tout 'massive deployment' against insurgents

By Mark Morgenstein, CNN
May 20, 2013 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nigeria is touting success against Islamist insurgents
  • Special forces have either killed or captured dozens of militants, the defense ministry says
  • Three soldiers were killed and seven more wounded, the ministry says
  • Troops are trying to secure towns and villages in northern Nigeria from "infiltration"

(CNN) -- An ongoing "massive deployment" against insurgent groups in northern Nigeria by the nation's special forces killed at least 14 suspected terrorists and captured 20 others, according to a statement released Sunday by Nigeria's defense ministry.

The ministry had reported killing at least 10 suspected terrorists and apprehending another 65 on Saturday, as well as the deaths of "conservatively speaking, over 20 dead" on Friday.

Sunday's update noted that three soldiers were killed and seven more were wounded in the offensive.

Opinion: Nigerians ask, are we at war?

Troops also seized seven vehicles and 13 telephone handsets, as patrols moved "to secure towns and villages from infiltration," while enforcing curfews in areas deemed potentially dangerous, the ministry said Sunday. A day earlier, the ministry trumpeted a weapons seizure that included rocket-propelled grenade launchers..

Turning Nigeria's civil war into fiction
Map: Borno state, Nigeria

Among those targeted by the military was the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The military said its forces stopped an attempt by fleeing Boko Haram insurgents to infiltrate Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, in northeastern Nigeria.

Much of the violence over recent years has been blamed on Boko Haram, the name of which means "Western education is sacrilege."

On Friday, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights commissioner told reporters that Boko Haram could face war crimes charges for alleged ethnic and religious cleansing in Nigeria.

Addressing reporters in Geneva, Rupert Colville urged it and other extremist groups to stop "cowardly attacks" against civilians, security forces, Nigerian officials and foreign nationals.

According to Human Rights Watch, the group has killed more than 2,800 people in an escalating campaign to impose strict Islamic law on largely Muslim northern Nigeria.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country, with a population of nearly 175 million according to the CIA World Factbook, and is the political and economic powerhouse of West Africa.

Friday: Insurgents killed in raid on camps, military says

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers contributed to this report from Ghana, and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report from Atlanta

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