MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — At least 50 alleged insurgents were killed during clashes with Nigerian soldiers as security forces repelled an attack on a military base in the northeastern state of Borno, the Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
Six soldiers, including the commanding officer, died in the assault on Friday on the base and a nearby police station in the town of Damboa, a statement from Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade said.
The daring move appeared to be a reprisal attack after a punishing air raid 24 hours earlier caused Boko Haram Islamic extremists to suffer heavy casualties, according to an officer who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to give information to reporters.
Modu Gwasha, member of a civilian defense group that fought alongside the soldiers, alleged that Boko Haram extremists burned several military vehicles during the assault, including two tanks. He added that he saw the corpses of at least 10 soldiers and five police officers.
Security forces have recently come under fire from some Nigerians who accuse the government of doing nothing to curb the increase in violence. Previous attacks on military bases in the northeast have sent soldiers fleeing for safety.
Boko Haram attracted international condemnation for its April abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, and the Nigerian military and government have been criticized for their failure to rescue the girls taken from Chibok town.
The Kibaku Area Development Association, a local residents' association, on Friday called for the United Nations to protect the people of Chibok and the wider region, where it says 19 villages have fallen under siege since the April 15 mass abduction, with over 229 people killed during that period.
"Security and defense is mainly provided by the local vigilante (who are ill-equipped) and the police while the soldiers in Chibok sit by and watch villagers being helplessly massacred in their homes, farms and in places of worship," the association said in a statement.
In 90 percent of cases, there had been advance warning of attacks, the group added, and yet the military has taken no action.
More than 2,000 people have died so far this year in the 5-year-old Islamic uprising, compared to an estimated 3,600 in the four previous years.
Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Lagos, Nigeria.