Islamist militants have killed hundreds of soldiers in attacks in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks, security and military sources say, forcing a turnaround in the course of an insurgency which the government has frequently claimed to have vanquished.

The fatigued, ill-equipped government troops have reached breaking point, they said.

The setback in the war against Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and the Boko Haram insurgency from which it split in 2016 comes as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in elections next February.

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