A Nigerien soldier stands guard at a camp of refugees fleeing Boko Haram fighters. Picture: REUTERS
A Nigerien soldier stands guard at a camp of refugees fleeing Boko Haram fighters. Picture: REUTERS

Kano, Nigeria — Nigeria’s military on Sunday said it had restored order after Boko Haram fighters took control of a town in the country’s remote northeast, sparking fears about the group’s resurgence.

Scores of jihadists believed to be loyal to a faction backed by the Islamic State group overran troops in Gudumbali on Friday.

Civilian militia sources said the toll from what was the Islamist extremists’ first major seizure of a town in two years was at least eight, although the Nigerian army denied there were casualties.

It also followed a series of recent deadly attacks on troops, which have called into question repeated government and military claims that Boko Haram is weakened to the point of defeat.

Nigerian Army spokesperson Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu said: "The encounter took place when the insurgents attacked the community, set some buildings ablaze and quickly withdrew from the community.

"However, no human casualty was recorded in the encounter. The troops have regrouped and normalcy has been restored. The troops have also been reinforced with additional troops to dominate the general area."

A military source in Maiduguri said troops returned to a deserted town on Sunday morning, indicating that Boko Haram had withdrawn voluntarily at some point on Saturday.

"Residents are yet to return to the town, having fled to other places to escape the attack. The fighters looted the [military] base before leaving," he said.

Nigeria’s military regularly trumpets its apparent successes against Boko Haram but has strongly denied previous reports of army casualties in attacks.

Access to areas outside Maiduguri, where much of the fighting has taken place, is strictly controlled by the military, making verification difficult or impossible. Raids on military bases were a regular occurrence in 2013 and 2014 when the group seized territory across northeast Nigeria.

The military source in Maiduguri said Boko Haram also attacked a naval base in Fishdam, near Baga, at about 10.20pm on Saturday.