Updated: August 12, 2013 2:06PM
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Suspected Islamic militants gunned down 44 people praying at a mosque in northeast Nigeria, two security agents said Monday, the latest in a slew of violence blamed on religious extremists in this country.
The slayings occurred Sunday morning at a mosque in Konduga town, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state.
A state security service agent and a member of a civilian vigilante group working with the military said Monday they counted the bodies at the mosque after the attack. Usman Musa of the civilian group says four of its vigilantes were also killed when they responded to calls for help.
Along the way from Maiduguri to Konduga, the civilian activists encountered “fierce resistance from heavily armed terrorists,” Musa said.
The state security agent spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Nigeria has been besieged by an Islamic uprising led by the Boko Haram militant group, which has gone after a range of targets including Christians outside churches, teachers and schoolchildren and moderate Muslim clerics who have spoken out against extremism.
Nigeria declared a state of emergency in much of the northeast on May 14 to fight the Islamic uprising, whose goal is to impose Islamic law across a country divided almost equally between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south. The insurgency poses the greatest threat in years to security this country of more than 160 million, which is Africa’s biggest oil producer and most populous nation.