File Photo: Nigerian soldiers in the town of Gwoza (Photo: Reuters)
Three militia fighters and 11 Boko Haram militants have been killed in a clash in a village in northeastern Nigeria, a local resident and a member of the militia fighting alongside the army said Tuesday.
News of the clash came as Nigeria's military spokesman told AFP a new regional force tasked with fighting the jihadists should go into action very soon, though he did not specify when for tactical reasons.
"On Monday afternoon around 2:00 pm (1300 GMT), Boko Haram gunmen on motorcycles attacked our village," said Markus Yohana, a local militia member fighting the Islamists in Dille in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria.
"They killed three vigilantes and seized a car," he said, adding that soldiers ambushed the raiders as they tried to flee, killing 11.
Another local, Bitrus Damina, confirmed the account.
"Soldiers went after them and killed 11 of them in the bush," Damina said.
Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks since Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in in May, unleashing a wave of violence that has claimed 830 lives in just two months, even as a regional offensive launched in February has scored a string of victories.
The 8,700-strong Multi-National Joint Task Force, which will replace the regional offensive, is expected to be more efficient than the current alliance when it takes over the battle against a six-year insurgency that has killed some 15,000 people.
"Any moment from now, the operations or the Task Force will be manifest. In other words, we may not tell you (when it will commence), you will just see it," Nigeria's military spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade told AFP.
"The mission has been sectorised, various sector commanders have been briefed, the briefing is ongoing at different levels... the aspect of the Nigerian force that will be part of the Multinational Joint Task Force has been designated," Olukolade added.
The force will have its headquarters in Chadian capital N'Djamena, and a military source from Chad said offices have been set up in an army camp there for the new force's chief of staff.
Nigerian President Buhari is set to visit Cameroon on Wednesday for the first time since he was sworn in, as well as Benin starting Saturday.
He has already visited Chad and Niger, which have also been suffered from Boko Haram's attacks.