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55 Die in Boko Haram raid

Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram has attacked the north-eastern town of Bama.

FILE: Gunmen killed 16 people when they fired on worshippers at a church in Nigeria's central Kogi state during an evening service on 7 August 2012. Picture: Supplied.

BAMA, NIGERIA - A total of 55 people died after suspected members of the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram attacked the north-eastern town of Bama.

A 100 prison inmates were freed, the military said.

Military Spokesperson Sagir Musa said that around 200 heavily armed members of Boko Haram arrived in buses and pick-up trucks and carried out a coordinated strike.

They hit the army barracks and the police station before breaking into the town's prison.

Musa described that 22 police officers, 14 prison officials, two soldiers and four civilians were killed, while 13 of the group's own members died.

This is one of the rebel's most deadly single strike since a 2009 uprising.

Musa said, "Bama's police station, army barracks and government buildings were set ablaze."

Bama is a small, remote town in north-eastern Borno State, Boko Haram's home state and the nucleus of its attacks.

Eyewitness Amina Usman said, "The call to prayer was just being said at about 5 a.m. when the Boko Haram started shooting from all directions and we ran for our lives."

"One woman who could not run burned to death," Usman added.

Western governments are increasingly concerned about Nigerian militants linking up with other jihadist groups in the West African region.

Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims. One of its chief demands is that its imprisoned members and family members are released.

It has carried out several prison breaks.

Attacks by Boko Haram have killed more than 3000 people since 2009, based on figures from Human Rights Watch.

President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a committee to work out the terms of an amnesty for the rebels but their leader, Abubakar Shekau, has shown no interest in it so far.

The Boko Haram sect and offshoots such as the Al- Qaeda-linked Ansaru, as well as associated criminal networks, pose the main threat to stability in Africa's top energy producer.