Soldiers shot and killed three suspected members of a radical Islamist sect Monday in Nigeria's northeast, as gunmen killed two police officers elsewhere in the north, authorities said.
The suspected members of Boko Haram who were killed were trying to set a secular primary school on fire in Maiduguri, military spokesman Lt. Col. Hassan Ifijeh Mohammed said. Mohammed said two other gunmen were arrested in the foiled fire in a city besieged by sect members held responsible for burning down six other secular primary schools within the last two weeks.
Despite the shooting, residents in another Maiduguri neighborhood said sect members set ablaze another unguarded school there overnight.
A Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul Qaqa previously had warned the group would target schools if authorities continued to raid Islamic schools.
In an email sent to journalists Monday in the local Hausa language, Abul Qaqa claimed responsibility for all school attacks and said three gunmen shot Monday had paid the "ultimate sacrifice." The message also grieved over the accidental deaths last week of three other sect members who were putting together a bomb in Maiduguri.
No one has been hurt in the school attacks, but fear grew in the city as gunshots echoed early Monday morning in a city that remains the sect's spiritual home.
Over the last year, Boko Haram has waged a campaign of killings and bombings across northern Nigeria, expanding from the small city of Maiduguri to the second-largest city of Kano where it recently launched its bloodiest series of attacks, killing at least 185 people.
In Kano, gunmen shot dead two policemen guarding the house of a top police official Monday, Kano State police spokesman Magaji Musa Majiya said.
Majiya said two other police guards were wounded in the latest of many attacks targeting security forces.
Boko Haram has put up an increasingly bloody sectarian fight against weak Nigeria's central government over Muslim killings in the country, the desire to see Islamic law enacted and to free its detained members. The sect is blamed for killing more than 300 people this year.
Associated Press writer Salisu Rabiu in Kano, Nigeria contributed to this report.