ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan asked the national assembly on Wednesday to extend by six months a state of emergency in three northeastern states where the military is fighting a drawn out battle with Islamist militants.

Jonathan ordered extra troops into Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states when declaring the six-month-long emergency rule in May, in an effort to crush Boko Haram, an Islamist group that has killed thousands during its four year rebellion.

Jonathan said in a letter to lawmakers that security challenges still existed in a few parts of the country.

"Consequently, it has become pertinent to request the approval ... for an extension of the State of Emergency for a further period of six months, during which time it is expected that normalcy would have been fully restored."

The national assembly is expected to debate the request and make an approval decision on Thursday.

Initially, Jonathan's intensified military campaign in May tempered violence as soldiers wrested back control of major towns and cities, but the insurgents have proven resilient.

Boko Haram fighters retreated into semi-arid land near the northern border with Niger and steep forested hills near Cameroon, from where they have mounted deadly counter-attacks.

At least 70 civilians have been killed in attacks on villages in Borno state in recent days.

Boko Haram wants to impose sharia law in a country mixed roughly equally between Christians and Muslims. It has become the biggest security threat in Africa's top oil exporter.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; writing by Joe Brock; editing by Tim Cocks and Keiron Henderson)

 

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