KANO, Nigeria, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Five members of the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram and two soldiers were killed in gun battles in Kano on Saturday, the army said, the first violence in months linked to insurgents in the largest northern city.
A military task force stormed two buildings suspected of being Boko Haram safe houses in the Hotoro Dan Marke and Brigade areas of the city at around 3 a.m. (0200 GMT), where the battles occurred, an army statement said.
“Intelligence available indicates that the terrorists were in the process of finalising plans to carry out simultaneous suicide attacks in Abuja and Kano,” it added.
A Boko Haram suicide attack on the United Nations building two years ago in the capital Abuja killed at least 25 people.
The sect has killed thousands during its four-year insurgency and has become the biggest security threat in Africa’s top oil producer and second largest economy.
President Goodluck Jonathan stepped up a military campaign against the group’s northeastern heartland six months ago, with the result that much of the violence has moved into the countryside, where hundreds of civilians have been killed.
Saturday’s violence is a reminder that Boko Haram still poses a threat in Nigeria’s second largest city, which is more significant to the economy than the remote northeast is.
The last known violence linked to Boko Haram in Kano was a bomb blast in a Christian area in July that killed at least 15.
Jonathan declared a six-month state of emergency in May in the three northeastern states worst hit by Boko Haram, and this week asked the national assembly to extend it for a further six months.
Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims. Since starting its uprising in 2009, the sect has turned itself from a clerical movement opposed to Western culture into an armed militia with links to al Qaeda’s West African wing. (Reporting by Ibrahim Shuaibu; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Kevin Liffey)