A gun battle between the Joint Task Force and Islamist fighters with the group Boko Haram was claimed as a victory by the JTF which counted 13 Boko Haram members dead and only one death among their own forces.

The fighting took place in Maiduguri, stronghold of the Islamists.

Sagir Musa, spokesman for the JTF, told the press that: "One soldier was killed by Boko Haram while the JTF killed 13 Boko Haram."

The military in the northeast have in the past played down their own casualties in fighting with Boko Haram.

Musa said members of the sect had detonated a bomb at a JTF checkpoint in Maiduguri, and that all the deaths had occurred in the ensuing gun battle.

Also on the first day of the new year, 30 inmates of Maiduguri Maximum Prison were released by order of Borno State Gov. Kashim Shettima who said the gesture was based on the recommendations of the State Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.

He said some of the beneficiaries were those who had stayed for long periods awaiting trial and others serving jail terms for minor offenses. Shettima also promised to train those who regained their freedom in different skills and provide capital for them to start businesses.

According to local media reports, Shettima also presented N1 million cash to the prison authorities for the provision of transport and upkeep allowances for the freed inmates. The governor called on the remaining inmates to help pray for the return of peace in the state. Shettima also presented 100 bags of rice and two cows to the inmates to enable them to celebrate the New Year.

Responding, the Deputy Comptroller of Prison in-charge of the prison, Alhaji Mohammed Bello thanked the governor for the gesture. Bello also appealed to Shettima to help the prison repair the broken down borehole, which provides water to the prison.

Boko Haram's insurgency intensified after Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, was elected president in April 2011.

Jonathan has been unable to stop the rebellion despite waves of military offensives in the northeast and other parts of northern and central Nigeria

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