LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A mosque attack that killed two soldiers followed a deadly church attack in central Nigeria, an army official said Wednesday, adding to insecurity fears that have spread across the West African nation.
Lt. Col. Gabriel Olorunyomi said Wednesday that three gunmen on motorcycles shot dead soldiers on patrol in Okene in Kogi state outside Okene Central Mosque just after Muslim worshippers ended a prayer session.
The assault Tuesday came a day after a church attack in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Okene left 19 Christian worshippers dead.
No group has claimed of responsibility for either attack, but the violence comes as Nigeria struggles with a growing Islamist insurgency known as Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has attacked places of worship in other parts of this nation evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.
The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is held responsible for more than 660 killings this year alone in Nigeria, according to an Associated Press count. Its demands have included the strict implementation of Islamic Shariah law across Nigeria.
The national chief of police, Mohammed Abubakar, ordered the round-the-clock surveillance of all places of worship in the central state of Kogi following the church and mosque attacks.
Such religious attacks are newer to this fertile state. In April, however, authorities there raided a bomb factory run by suspected sect members. They also blamed Boko Haram for a February prison break in the Kogi town of Koton-Karifi that freed 119 inmates.
Most of the attacks claimed by Boko Haram have occurred in the nation's north where major cities have seen an increased security presence and where residents live in constant fear of the next bombing or drive-by shooting.
Two past presidents and one-time rivals described a nation "gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty," in a joint statement a week ago. It said "virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day to day lives without great anxiety and trepidation."
But the attacks continue unabated even as authorities dispatch more security officers_who have themselves been targets.
Gunmen in a car shot two policemen on patrol Wednesday in the outskirts of the northeastern city of Bauchi, said the state police chief Mohammed Ladan.
Meanwhile, in the northwestern city of Sokoto, a concerned bystander's tip-off led to the discovery and safe detonation of a concealed bomb Wednesday in the northwestern city of Sokoto, said national police spokesman Frank Mba.
Associated Press writer Shehu Saulawa contributed to this report from Bauchi.