A radical Muslim sect blamed for attacks across northeast Nigeria bombed a police station and robbed two banks Thursday, killing 12 people in an assault highlighting the group's escalating willingness to shed blood, authorities said.
The sect, known locally as Boko Haram, stormed into the city of Gobi in Adamawa state in broad daylight, first attacking the police precinct with bombs and raking the building with gunfire, police commissioner A.T. Shinaba said. The group killed four police officers and a soldier guarding the area, he said.
The sect members then shot their way into two local branches of First Bank PLC and United Bank for Africa PLC, killing seven bank employees before speeding away with an unknown amount of cash, Shinaba said. Four others suffered injuries in the attack.
"Our police station was attacked this morning by a gang of suspected Boko Haram gunmen in vehicles and motorbikes," the shaken police commissioner told journalists. We are "combing the bush for fleeing sect members."
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 been unable to handle the rise of Boko Haram, which many believed had been dismantled after a security crackdown following a sect riot in 2009 left 700 people dead.
The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, seeks the implementation of strict Shariah Islamic law in the country. Nigeria is largely split between a Christian south and Muslim north, where 12 states already have a version of Shariah in place.
Boko Haram has been blamed for a rash of killings targeting security officers, local leaders and clerics in the area over the last year. It also has claimed responsibility for a bombing at the nation's police headquarters that killed two people in June.
This would be the first bank robbery attributed to the group, though sophisticated attacks on banks have been carried on banks in north Nigeria in recent weeks.