Kano, Nigeria - Suspected members of an Islamist sect behind an armed uprising last year in northern Nigeria engaged in a shootout with soldiers on Saturday, residents and police said.

Gunfire broke out in an area of the northern city of Maiduguri, the centre of last year's uprising, and was suspected to involve sect members, police said.

Soldiers cordoned off the area, which is near the sect headquarters that now sits in ruins after being destroyed in a police and military assault last year.

Residents reached by phone said they thought the 30-minute shootout was between soldiers and Boko Haram sect members.

“We received reports of a shootout around Kofa Biyu, New Prison and Unguwar Shanu areas of the city, but we don't have details yet,” Borno state police spokesman Lawal Abdullahi told AFP by phone from Maiduguri.

One resident said “some members of Boko Haram opened fire on the soldiers patrolling the area who returned fire, and the shootout lasted for about 30 minutes.”

It was unclear if there had been any casualties.

Sect members have been blamed for a series of recent attacks, including shootings of police officers and raids on a prison and police stations.

Troops were deployed to Maiduguri after the recent upsurge in violence. - Sapa-AFP