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Boko Haram attack Niger side of Lake Chad

By Agencies

Boko Haram militants attacked an island on Niger's side of Lake Chad late on Friday and heavy fighting ensued as the army sought to repel them, residents and security sources said.

The Lake Chad area - a vast maze of tiny islands and swampland - is thought to be serving as a hideout for the insurgent group. Last week, Boko Haram members aboard motorised canoes attacked a lakeside fishing village in Chad in the first known lethal attack on the country.

"There was heavy weapons and machine gun fire from about 2000 local time," said a resident of the nearby lakeside village of N'Guigmi, which Boko Haram attempted to seize earlier this month. Two security forces also confirmed the attack, without providing further details.

Niger, along with neighbours Chad and Cameroon, had been seeking to hem in the guerrillas within their heartland in northeastern Nigeria ahead of a major ground and air offensive planned for month end.

Nigeria's army has stepped up its military campaign this week, using warplanes to bomb Boko Haram camps, prompting revenge attacks on civilians.