Boko Haram captures Banki town in Borno - BBC

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Boko Haram Militants led by Abubakar Shekau

A screengrab taken on August 24, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (C), delivering a speech at an undisclosed location.
A screengrab taken on August 24, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (C), delivering a speech at an undisclosed location.

Nigeria’s Islamist sect Boko Haram has captured the town of Banki, which borders Cameroun, after government troops fled, residents say.

Fears have been raised that their main target is Maiduguri, the capital of north-eastern Borno state.

Boko Haram’s “lightning territorial gains” could lead to Nigeria breaking up like Iraq, a think-thank has warned.

Residents from Banki say that government troops abandoned their posts as the militants advanced on the small border town on Tuesday.

Most of the people remaining in the town were women and children, as many of the men had fled, one man who was hiding in the bush nearby told the BBC Hausa service.

The militants have not harmed anyone in the town, residents said.

The capture of Banki gives Boko Haram leverage as it tries to secure territory beyond north-eastern Nigeria, says BBC Nigeria analyst Jimeh Saleh.

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Last month, Boko Haram leader’s declared an Islamic caliphate in areas under the group’s control, following a similar declaration by the Islamic State (IS) group, previously known by the acronym Isis, after it captured parts of Iraq and Syria.

“Unless swift action is taken, Nigeria could be facing a rapid takeover of a large area of its territory reminiscent of Isis’s lightning advances in Iraq,” the Nigeria Security Network (NSN) said in a special report released on Tuesday entitled North-East Nigeria On The Brink.

“If Maiduguri falls, it will be a symbolic and strategic victory unparalleled so far in the conflict,” it said.

“A successful attack could be followed by a take over of the whole of Borno state and possibly parts of Adamawa, Yobe, and neighbouring Cameroon.”

The UN refugee agency has said the fighting has forced more than 10,000 people to flee to neighbouring Cameroon and Niger in the past week, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Meanwhile, regional foreign ministers have held talks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to discuss the growing security threat.

Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Benin and Niger agreed to step up security co-operation, including intelligence-gathering, to defeat the militants, a statement issued after the meeting said.