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Militants kill 70 in northeast Nigeria attacks: officials

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram militants have killed 70 people in three attacks in northeastern Nigeria in recent days, officials said on Monday, a sign that a military crackdown is failing to subdue the Islamist insurgency.

Boko Haram has killed hundreds of civilians and members of security forces in recent weeks, as it continues to resist an intensified military crackdown ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan more than five months ago.

The sect wants to carve out an Islamic state in a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, making it the biggest security threat to Africa's top oil exporter.

Gunmen fired on a convoy of people returning from a wedding party in Borno state on Saturday, killing 30 people, including the groom, said Ahmad Sajo, spokesman for neighboring Adamawa state. The military said only five were killed.

Further north in Borno's Gulumba village, gunmen on motorbikes and in a pick-up truck shot dead 27 people and wounded another 12 in the early hours of Thursday, the Chairman of Bama Local Government, Baba Shehu Gulumba, told reporters.

Gulumba said a further 13 people were killed on Saturday in a similar attack in nearby T-Junction village.

Insurgents also set houses ablaze and stole motorbikes, cars, livestock and 3.5 million naira ($22,100), he said.

Thousands have been killed since Boko Haram launched an uprising against the state in 2009, turning itself from a clerical movement opposed to Western culture into an armed militia with links to al Qaeda's West African wing.

President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states in May and a military surge initially reduced attacks in major towns and cities across the north.

But Boko Haram's fighters have retreated to the semi-arid region towards Niger in the north and to the forested hills and caves on the border with Cameroon, where they have been able to regroup and counter-attack ever since.

(Reporting by Lanre Ola and Ibrahim Mshelizza; Additional reporting by Isaac Abrak in Abuja; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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