Nigeria Kidnapped Girls

Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram, which has been staging an Islamic uprising for the past five years. (The Associated Press)

Cameroon's government said Tuesday that its military killed 143 militants from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, which has been waging war in neighboring Nigeria.

In a statement carried on state television, authorities said hundreds of militants had attacked a Cameroonian military camp in Kolofata the day before after crossing the border from Nigeria.

The fight lasted five hours and left 143 of the militants dead, Cameroonian Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said in the statement.

"It is by far the heaviest toll sustained by the criminal sect Boko Haram since it began launching its barbaric attacks against our land, people and goods," he said.

He said a Cameroonian corporal was killed and four other soldiers were wounded, but gave no other details.

It was not immediately possible to independently corroborate the toll as the fighting took place in a remote border region where militants have abducted foreigners for ransom.

Neighboring countries increasingly are being drawn into Nigeria's five-year Islamic uprising, which has killed thousands and driven 1.6 million people from their homes, including across borders into Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Boko Haram has been recruiting fighters in all three countries. The group also recently issued a video threatening Cameroonian President Paul Biya.

The Cameroonian government has stepped up its offensive, launching air strikes late last month after the militants stormed a military base.

Boko Haram was responsible for abducting nearly 300 schoolgirls from northeastern Nigeria last April in an attack that drew international outrage. Dozens of the students escaped but 219 remain missing.