Boko Haram
Boko Haram militantsReuters

A senior member of Nigerian terror group Boko Haram has been captured by Nigerian forces, it has been claimed.

The militant was discovered during a mass arrest of nearly 500 travellers in the southern state of Abia, heading for the southern city of Port Harcourt.

"The army is screening the 486 persons being held in Abia state," defence spokesman General Chris Olukolade told Reuters.

A member of the insurgents was identified among the travellers, Olukolade continued.

Police refuse to disclose the identity of the militant.

Boko Haram mainly targets villages in the north. The discovery of a senior Boko Haram militant in a southern state stoked fears that the insurgents are expanding their range.

Boko Haram - which means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language - made headlines worldwide after the mass abduction of nearly 300 girls last April.

The group opposes to the westernisation of Nigeria and imposes sharia law in the country.

An attack believed to be carried out by the terror group killed at least 14 people, including young children, earlier this week. The victims were watching the World Cup Brazil-Mexico match at an outside venue in Damaturu, Yobe state.

The Nigerian government has advised people to avoid gathering in public spaces to watch the World Cup, fearing that deadly attacks might occur.

Boko Haram Insurgency

The group was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in the Nigerian town of Maiduguri in 2002.

Yusuf espoused anti-state ideology and called on other Muslims to join him and return to a "true" Islamic law.

The former leader died in police custody in 2009. Hundreds of other Boko Haram members were killed by Nigerian police.

That crackdown was blamed by many for making the group even more violent.

The militants, currently led by Abubakar Shekau, attack public places including schools, churches and police stations.

Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013.