KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Explosions rocked parts of the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri Saturday as troops engaged suspected Islamic radicals and raided homes, residents said.
The explosions, which began late Friday, occurred in three neighbourhoods notorious for attacks blamed on the Boko Haram sect, and residents fled as troops went door-to-door arresting people suspected of complicity, they said.
"Last night, there were explosions in Gwange area which went on till the late hours and today the explosions continued in Kalari and Budum neighbourhoods," Modu Ari, a Budum resident, told AFP by phone from the city.
"Soldiers moved from house to house arresting people, forcing residents to flee their homes to escape arrest," said Ari, who had left his house with his family on Saturday.
Ali Faltaye, a resident of Kalari, said troops battled suspected sect members in the area, sending residents fleeing to avoid being caught up in the fighting or arrested by soldiers.
"Since morning loud explosions have been going on in the area and soldiers have been breaking into homes making arrests", Faltaye said.
Military and police authorities were not available for comment.
Troops from Nigeria's Joint Task Force who were deployed in the city two years ago to combat Boko Haram have been accused of burning homes and committing rights violations against residents whom they accuse of complicity with Boko Haram whenever there is an attack blamed on the sect.
The soldiers have denied such accusations.
The group has stepped up bomb and gun attacks since the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Boko Haram has killed hundreds in an insurgency that has been focused in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, with attacks also occurring in the country's religiously and ethnically divided centre.
The country, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Maiduguri, capital of Yobe state, is considered the base of the sect.