Nigeria 'raids Boko Haram cell linked to abductions'

A group of girls, claimed to be the missing school girls
Image caption Boko Haram has said it will not free the girls until authorities release all imprisoned militants

Nigeria's military says it has raided a Boko Haram intelligence unit thought to be linked to the recent abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls.

The cell leader Babuji Ya'ari was arrested, a military statement said.

Mr Ya'ari had been actively involved in the seizure of the girls as well as the killing in May of a traditional leader, the emir of Gwoza, the statement added.

More than 2,000 people have been killed this year in attacks blamed on Boko Haram militants.

Mr Ya'ari has not yet commented on the allegations.

The defence ministry statement described him as a businessman who "participated actively in the abduction of schoolgirls" in the northern town of Chibok.

He used his participation in a civilian vigilante group fighting Boko Haram to cover up his work spying for the militants, the military said, adding that he had co-ordinated "several deadly attacks in Maidugiri", the capital of Borno state, since 2011.

The defence ministry said they had also arrested women from the intelligence cell.

The military's claims could not be independently verified.

Boko Haram militants abducted more than 200 girls from their school in Borno state on 14 April. Most are still missing.

The group says it will not free the girls until authorities release all imprisoned militants. The government says it knows where the abductees are, but that a rescue could lead to the girls being killed.

The militants have been blamed for several other recent attacks, including an assault on villages near Chibok on Sunday that killed at least 40 people, and a bomb attack on a busy shopping district in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, last week.

Who are Boko Haram?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has been designated a terrorist by the US government
  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Who are Boko Haram?

Profile: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram