MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian senator says thousands of people are fleeing the northeastern city of Bama amid conflicting reports that it has been seized by Boko Haram Islamic extremists.
Nigeria's military claimed to have repelled the insurgents in fierce fighting, but Sen. Ali Ndume says the stream of refugees from the city indicates otherwise.
It would be a major victory for the militants if Boko Haram wins control of Bama, the second largest city in Borno state. That would leave the way open to attack the Borno state capital of Maiduguri that is also the military headquarters of the fight against Boko Haram.
Ndume, who represents Borno state, says Bama is 45 miles from Maiduguri and has a population of more than 200,000 people.
Boko Haram has declared an Islamic caliphate in overrun villages in eastern Borno. The group attracted international criticism for its mass kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls who remain captive.