In fierce fighting that killed more than 200 combatants yesterday, Nigerian troops clashed with Islamic extremists who attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeastern Nigeria, from three fronts. At the same time the insurgents continued scorched-earth attacks on villages some 125 miles to the south in Adamawa state, slitting throats of residents, looting and burning homes, and abducting dozens of trapped women and children, according to escaping survivors. In Maiduguri, troops blocked roads into the city, which also prevented civilians from escaping.
The multiple attacks came as US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Lagos, almost 1,000 miles southwest of Maiduguri, to encourage peaceful elections on Feb. 14 in Africa's most populous country. "This will be the largest democratic election on the continent," he said. "Given the stakes, it's absolutely critical that these elections be conducted peacefully—that they are credible, transparent and accountable." Kerry met with President Goodluck Jonathan and his chief rival candidate, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Kerry told reporters afterward that he won pledges from both to refrain from violence, and promised more US support in the fight against Boko Haram if the elections take place peacefully and democratically.