“Boko Haram terrorists attempted to attack a military barracks (in Borno) at about 5:00 am (0400 GMT),” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said in a statement.
He said the attack occurred in the village of Monguno, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) from Borno’s restive capital of Maiduguri, considered Boko Haram’s home base where the radical group has been blamed for scores of deadly attacks.
The raid on the military barracks “was repelled,” Musa said. “The encounter led to the deaths of 20 Boko Haram terrorists.”
He said that the gunmen, armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers had stormed the military site in three 4X4 trucks and eight motorcycles.
Boko Haram’s insurgency is estimated to have left 3,000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
The Islamists have said they are fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, but their demands have repeatedly shifted.
A video posted on YouTube last month featured gunmen claiming to be from Boko Haram who said they abducted a French family of seven from a Cameroon nature park near the Nigerian border.
The video marked a departure for the Islamist group, which had never before claimed the kidnapping of a Westerner and some have questioned whether the Nigerian Islamists did in fact carry out the abductions.
France has said that Boko Haram was responsible for the attack and are likely holding the family members, including four children, in Nigeria.