Explosions, gunfire heard in northeast Nigeria

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2012 4:39 PM
Explosions, gunfire heard in northeast Nigeria

Explosions and gunfire could be heard Friday night across a city in northeast Nigeria previously targeted by a radical Islamist sect, as authorities in another city blame its members for killing five people leaving a mosque.

An Associated Press reporter in Gombe, the capital of Gombe state, heard the blasts around evening prayers in the city. Gunfire quickly followed the explosions, with witnesses saying people began fleeing the area near a police command and an immigration office.

Gombe state police commissioner Orubebe Ghandi Ebikeme simply described the situation as "very bad," declining to give further comment. Other authorities could not be immediately reached for comment.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though suspicion immediately fell on the radical sect known as Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is carrying out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law and avenge Muslim killings in Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

The sect has been blamed for killing at least 310 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

Boko Haram, whose spiritual home is in neighboring Borno state, has carried out attacks in Gombe state before. In January, suspected sect gunmen attacked a church in the city during a prayer service, killing at least five people and wounding others.

Meanwhile Friday, authorities blamed gunmen from Boko Haram for killing five people leaving a mosque after evening prayers. The attack happened in Kano, a city of 9 million people where the sect killed at least 185 people last month, said Magaji Musa Majiya, a local police spokesman. Majiya said officers had not made an arrest in the killings as of late Friday night.

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Ibrahim Garba and Salisu Rabiu in Kano, and Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, contributed to this report.