World Bulletin / News Desk
The Nigerian Boko Haram denied on Monday that 20 of its fighters had been killed in a raid by security forces in the northeastern city of Maiduguri the day before, saying all those killed were civilians.
A security officer said a mixed military and police force, tipped off about a Boko Haram meeting on Sunday, had been fired on when they approached the site and killed 20 "terrorists" for the loss of one soldier in the ensuing shootout.
Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa told a teleconference for journalists in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state and the sect's heartland, that his fighters had not been meeting at the place where the military said it killed them.
"They only succeeded in killing civilians," Qaqa said. "Twenty of us cannot risk sitting in a volatile place to hold a meeting ... It is not possible."
Nigeria is a country of more than 160 million split roughly equally between Muslims and Christians.