Gunmen attacked two separate police stations across northern Nigeria, killing four police officers and two civilians in one attack while bombing a station in another, authorities said Tuesday.
Residents in Bauchi and Sokoto states said they feared the two attacks late Monday night were the work of a feared Muslim sect that is seemingly able to attack security officials at will.
However, police downplayed the worry _ even though the assaults showed how Nigeria's federal police force struggles to protect even itself.
In Sokoto, a typically quiet state bordering Niger, the gunmen targeted the police station in the city of Tambuwal after witnesses said they couldn't break into a nearby bank. The gunmen sprayed the station with gunfire, killing the four officers and two civilians there to file a police report.
The gunmen freed a suspected armed robber and took all of the police station's weapons, authorities said.
By Tuesday afternoon, soldiers and paramilitary police officers had been posted to guard nearby roads.
In Bauchi state, witnesses said eight men fled after the attack in two cars they stole from the bank in Gamawa. The robbers tried to attack another bank, but couldn't get past its bulletproof front doors.
A witness, who requested anonymity out of fear the robbers might return, said paramilitary police shot at the gunmen, leaving two bystanders wounded. The robbers also threw explosives into a police station while escaping.
Police said they were investigating the attacks.
Nigeria, home to 150 million people, suffers from a weak police force more focused on collecting bribes than law enforcement in the oil-rich nation. The force also has so far been unable to handle the rise of a radical sect known locally as Boko Haram, which has conducted a series of assassinations and bomb attacks across the nation's Muslim north.
Sokoto state police commissioner Baba Adisa Bolanta said the gunmen responsible for Monday's attack weren't from the sect, though he offered no further details.
Associated Press writer Shehu Saulawa in Bauchi, Nigeria contributed to this report.