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Close to 200 people have been killed in intense fighting between the Nigerian military and Islamist extremists.

The battle began on Friday night in the northeastern fishing community of Baga on Lake Chad and lasted many hours.

Reports suggest insurgents fired rocket propelled grenades and soldiers responded with machine-gun fire as civilians got caught up in the violence, many villages and towns were torched.

The Red Cross says it is unclear whether the victims were soldiers, civilians or Islamists as the bodies were so badly charred.

It is thought fighting began when Nigerian troops surrounded a mosque where they believed members of the Boko Haram group were hiding.

The carnage marks a escalation in the long-running insurgency in the mainly Muslim north of the country.

The violence grew following a 2009 riot by Boko Haram in Maiduguri that resulted in a police and military crackdown that left 700 dead.

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