MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Nigerian government forces killed at least 56 Islamist Boko Haram fighters in a combined air and ground offensive in the northeast, the military said on Monday.
Two government soldiers were been wounded during the battle in Alafa forest on Saturday, an army spokesman in the region, Captain Aliyu Danja, said in a statement.
The figures could not be immediately verified. The military often reports significant casualties among Boko Haram, an insurgent group fighting for the past four and a half years to impose Sharia law on Nigeria, while rarely admitting large losses among its own troops or civilians.
Nigerian forces have stepped up an offensive against the Islamists in the past two weeks after some setbacks, including a Dec. 2 coordinated strike by the Islamists on the air force base and military barracks in the main northeastern city of Maiduguri.
On Friday the army announced a reshuffle of commanders, including the heads of logistics, the armoured corps and the general in charge of the anti-Boko Haram campaign in the northeast, but gave no reason for the moves.
"Over 56 terrorists were killed during the encounter while several others fled with gunshot wounds. Weapons, equipment and vehicles belonging to the terrorists were also destroyed by the troops' ground and air strikes," Danja said.
Thousands have died in violence since Boko Haram first launched an uprising against the Nigerian state in 2009. (Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja, Writing by Tim Cocks, Editing by Angus MacSwan)