Muslim cleric shot dead in northeastern Nigeria

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 10:22 AM
Muslim cleric shot dead in northeastern Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen Sunday shot dead a Muslim cleric in northeastern Nigeria who was known for giving sermons condemning the actions of an Islamic sect responsible for a series of violent attacks in recent months.

The cleric was killed outside a mosque in the remote northeastern city of Maiduguri when gunmen drove past and shot him at close range, according to a witness. The police confirmed the shooting but gave no further details.

Witnesses said the cleric was known in the local area for outspoken sermons against Boko Haram, a radical Islamic group behind months of unrest and targeted religious killings.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful," put up posters last month in Maiduguri warning of a "full-scale war" and telling civilians to stay away from politicians and members of the security forces.

The sect wants sharia, Islamic law, more widely applied across Nigeria but its views are not espoused by most of the country's Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Members launched an uprising in 2009, attacking government buildings and leading to days of gun battles with the security forces in which as many as 800 people were killed.

Boko Haram repeated its claim of responsibility for Christmas Eve bombs in the central city of Jos, which triggered ethnic and religious fighting which has since killed more than 200 people.

(Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; writing by Joe Brock; editing by Matthew Jones)