Suspected extremists attack in northeast Nigeria

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DAMATURU, Nigeria (AP) - Explosions and gunfire erupted before dawn Monday in the northeast Nigerian town of Damaturu, sending some residents fleeing into the bush and others cowering in their homes amid an attack by suspected Islamic extremists.

Resident Garba Musa said Boko Haram targeted a rapid-response police base on the outskirts of Damaturu, the capital of northeast Yobe state.

"It has been burned down completely," he said.

The Defense Ministry headquarters said a fighter jet was repelling the attackers. A helicopter gunship was hovering over the site.

"We are still under fire," Premium Times news website quoted Yobe state police Commissioner Marcus Danladi as saying. "Kindly sympathise with us. There is nothing I can tell you now."

Many residents said they locked themselves into their homes after explosions and gunshots woke them around 4 a.m.

Civil servant Abdullahi Abba said his family hid in the bush. "We've been hearing these gunshots and bombs since the early hours and felt unsafe staying at home." He said they hoped to trek to the nearby town of Tarmuwa.

"We don't know where to hide, the shooting is all over ... We are running for our lives," said resident Musa Abbas.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, some across borders, during the five-year-long insurgency. Boko Haram is holding some villages along Nigeria's northeast border.

The extremists are blamed for a Friday bombing that killed at least 102 people at the main mosque in Kano, Nigeria's second largest city. The mosque has moderate clerics who have condemned Boko Haram as un-Islamic. The insurgents frequently attack moderate Muslim leaders and are holding 219 kidnapped schoolgirls.

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Associated Press writers Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and Michelle Faul in Conakry, Guinea, contributed to this report.

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