Nigerian soldiers intercepted a column of Boko Haram fighters on Friday near a military base in northeast Nigeria, triggering a fierce gun battle that killed three civilians, security sources told AFP.
A soldier was injured in the fight, which happened in Jakana village, some 30km from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
In July, jihadists raided the military base in Jakana and burnt down a police station. About 80 people were killed in a previous attack on Jakana and nearby Mainok in March 2013.
On Saturday, military sources said the latest incident saw troops fight a two-hour battle with fighters from the Islamic State-backed Boko Haram faction from 18:00 on Friday.
“It was an intense fight. Our troops saw them passing near the village and confronted them,” a senior military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The terrorists were obviously heading toward the bush to congregate and launch an attack somewhere. One soldier was injured and three civilians caught up in the fight were killed.”
A member of a civilian militia assisting the military with security said the jihadists fired at troops with anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
“The terrorists did not intend to attack, they fought soldiers to defend themselves and escape,” he added.
The fighting underlined the persistent threat to troops in the remote region, which has seen more than 20 attacks on military bases since July.
Two bases were attacked on Thursday and Friday in the Rann and Bama areas of Borno. Eight soldiers were killed in an attack last Saturday in the Yobe village of Buni Gari.
Most attacks on the military are blamed on, or claimed by, the self-styled Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Friday’s fighting disrupted traffic along the main road between Maiduguri and the state capital of neighbouring Yobe state, Damaturu.
Boko Haram is active in the area and have on several occasions barricaded the road, killing motorists and burning vehicles.
Jakana lies near a route linking an ISWAP base in the Buni Yadi district of Yobe and its camps in the Konduga forest area of Borno.