The Latest: Nigeria strikes Islamic State group in northeast

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KANO, Nigeria (AP) – The Latest on Nigeria’s election (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Nigeria’s air force asserts that it has “neutralized” dozens of fighters with the Islamic State West Africa Province extremist group in the northeast near Lake Chad.

A statement says airstrikes were carried out on Sunday, a day after the country’s presidential election. The statement says the airstrikes occurred as fighters met in Kolloram in Borno state.

The statement could not immediately be independently confirmed.

The IS in West Africa Province group is a recent offshoot of the Boko Haram extremist insurgency, which has killed well over 20,000 people in the course of a decade. Nigeria’s government recently acknowledged a “resurgence” by the fighters as they attack and overrun military bases.

Insecurity is a major issue in the election as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term.

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1:20 p.m.

An observer mission from the United States is critical of the delays in Nigeria’s election.

A joint statement by the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute issued Monday said that “the last-minute postponement of the election by INEC (Nigeria’s electoral commission) and significant delays in the opening of polling units risk undermining citizen confidence in elections and disenfranchising voters.”

The election was originally scheduled for Feb. 16 but then, just hours before polls were to open, the election was postponed a week, citing numerous logistical issues. When voting took place on Feb. 23 there were numerous delays causing many polling stations to open hours late. Some polling stations had to remain open a day later in order to allow people in line to vote.

The U.S.-based observers noted that Nigeria’s major political parties remain the weak link in ensuring an inclusive election process and have issued worrisome statements.

The observers said that despite the voting issues, Nigerians have showed resilience and patience.

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Nigeria is counting votes in its presidential election and observers are giving mixed assessments of the process.

The African Union said the “overall political climate remained largely peaceful and conducive for the conducting of credible elections” but criticized poor preparation and called for calm until final results.

That could happen as early as Monday as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in Africa’s most populous country.

A nationwide civil society platform of observers issued a more critical statement citing “major logistic lapses” including widespread delays and “disappointing” conduct by political parties. It called this election a step back from the one in 2015, seen as one of Nigeria’s most transparent and efficient.

The Situation Room platform said at least 39 people were killed in violence related to Saturday’s vote.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of the Nigeria elections here: https://www.apnews.com/Nigeria

Electoral officials compile voting results at a collation center in Yola, n Nigeria, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Vote counting continued Sunday as Nigerians awaited the outcome of a presidential poll seen as a tight race between the president and a former vice president. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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