ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday asked legislators to extend for another six months the state of emergency in three northeastern states that have been bloodied by attacks by the armed Islamic group, Boko Haram.
The request was made in letters presented to the House of Representatives and the Senate in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.
Jonathan's letter claimed "considerable successes in containing the activities of the terrorist element" but said some security challenges still exist. Jonathan said he expects "normalcy will be fully restored" within another six months.
Boko Haram attacks have killed hundreds of civilians in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks. On Oct. 16, the extremists engaged security forces in a five-hour battle in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, in which they burned down an army barracks and four police buildings.
Jonathan declared a state of emergency on May 14 that was approved by Parliament to cover the states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno. The president said then that Boko Haram fighters had taken control of some towns and villages in the northeast, an area that covers one-sixth of Nigeria.
Thousands of troops and police officers deployed in the emergency swiftly forced the extremists out of major urban centers but the campaign, which includes aerial bombardments and ground assaults, has been struggling to flush them out of hideouts in forests and caves.
Amnesty International and an investigation by The Associated Press of mortuary records show hundreds of detainees arrested as suspected Islamic militants or their supporters have died in custody this year, some from poor conditions others taken from their cells and shot.
In May, Jonathan said the military's emergency powers include arresting suspects, seizing buildings and "the lock-down of any area of terrorist operation." He urged the military to "take all necessary action . to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists."
The Islamic extremist uprising, which began in 2009 and has killed thousands, poses the biggest threat in decades to the security and cohesion of Africa's biggest oil producer and its most populous nation of more than 160 million. It is divided almost equally between the mainly Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north.