Nigeria's Boko Haram insurgency 'affects millions'

Homes destroyed by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State (February 2014) Boko Haram has been accused of numerous attacks in the north

More than three million people are facing a humanitarian crisis in three northern Nigerian states hit by an Islamist-led insurgency, the government's relief agency has said.

The conflict has displaced about 250,000 people since January, it added.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the three states last year to crush the insurgency.

However, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in recent months.

The group operates mostly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where the state of emergency is in force.

'Unprecedented crisis'

In a statement, the Nigerian government's National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) said the "needs of the affected population are increasing by the day and the support of all is urgently required".

Borno was worst affected, with about 1.3 million people - most of them women, children and the elderly - in need of aid, Nema said.

In Adamawa, the number stood at around one million and in Yobe at more than 770,000, it said.

A screengrab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants The government has vowed to defeat the militants

About 250,000 people were living in camps or with relatives and friends after being forced out of their homes, the agency added.

Nigerian Red Cross Society representative Soji Adeniyi said what has happening in the north-east was unprecedented.

"We have never had this kind of displacement caused by conflicts before in the country,'' he is quoted by Nigeria's privately-owned This Day newspaper as saying.

Earlier this month, Boko Haram fighters attacked an army barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

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Its fighters also looted and torched several villages and towns in the state after launching attacks with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

Last month, the group was accused of killing at least 29 people in an attack on a rural boarding school in Yobe.

Boko Haram has waged an insurgency since 2009 to create a strict Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

The president insists that the state of emergency has been effective, saying the militants have been confined to a small area near the border with Cameroon.

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