Nigeria refutes Boko Haram caliphate claim

Abuja - The Nigerian government on Monday refuted a claim by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram that it has set up an Islamic state in a town in the country's north-east.

"The claim is empty," Nigeria's defence ministry said on Twitter. "The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state [are] still intact."

The denial came after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced in a video message that the group declared a caliphate in Gwoza in Borno State.

Security agencies were in the process of "analysing the content of the said new video and compare with the facts on the ground in Gwoza", Borno Governor Kashim Shettima said.

Boko Haram has been in control of Gwoza for several weeks. The military said its attempts to regain control of the town were "ongoing."

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful", has killed more than 3 000 people in Nigeria's north this year alone.

When it first launched attacks in 2009, Boko Haram mainly targeted Christians under the pretext of wanting to establish an Islamic state, but since mid-2013, Boko Haram has focused its attacks on government security agents as well as on civilians of both Christian and Muslim faiths in their homes, markets, hospitals and schools.