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Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Sunday, 2 August 2009 11:38 UK

Nigerian police find sect women

The abducted women huddle together in the shade, with one child standing in shabby clothing
Officials said the group were in a deplorable state

Police in northern Nigeria say they have found another group of women and children abducted by the Boko Haram sect, locked in a house in Maiduguri.

The group were in a deplorable condition, officials said, suffering from pneumonia, fever and rashes.

The military now says 700 people were killed in Maiduguri alone during violent clashes between police and the Islamic sect.

An earlier tally of victims of the unrest put the figure at 400.

Col Ben Ahanotu, head of security in Maiduguri, said that mass burials had begun there.

The Boko Haram compound, he said, was being used as one of the burial sites because bodies were decomposing in the heat.

More than 200 women and children have now been found over the last week, locked in buildings in Maiduguri.

The most recent group of 140 is being housed at the local police headquarters, and have been visited by the Red Cross and the National Emergency Authority.

A Red Cross official told the BBC in Maiduguri that the women had been abducted by Boko Haram from six different states across northern Nigeria.

Last week, the police rescued about a 100 young women and children from a house on the edge of the city. Many said they were the wives of sect members, and had been forced to travel to Maiduguri from Bauchi state.

The BBC reporter in Maiduguri says the Boko Haram sect believed that their families should accompany them to the battlefield.

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The compound used by the Boko Haram sect was destroyed by government troops and is now smouldering rubble.

More members of the sect have been arrested in house-to-house searches across northern Nigeria and the military said most would be prosecuted.

Life in the affected areas is now beginning to return to normal with banks and markets reopening.

Maiduguri is the capital of Borno state but the fighting spread to cities across the north of the country and the total number of dead is unknown.

A military spokesman said two of those killed were soldiers and 13 were police officers.

The number of injured, meanwhile, is still being counted. The Red Cross had earlier said about 3,500 people fled the fighting.

The violence ended on Thursday when the sect's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by police.

The controversy surrounding his death continues. The police say he was killed in a shoot-out while he was being detained. But Col Ahanotu says he captured him and handed him over alive.



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