Gunmen with explosives attack two police stations in Nigeria
Gunmen with explosives attacked two police stations Tuesday in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, previously a target of major violence by Islamist group Boko Haram, police and residents said.
Meanwhile, residents reported gunfire and blasts around another police station in the northeastern city of Damaturu, hit by deadly shootouts between suspected Islamists and security forces last week, but details were not clear.
In Kano, a police station in the Goron Dutse area came under attack, police said. Residents also reported explosions followed by gunfire between police and attackers around the Panshekara station on the outskirts of the city.
“We are still trying to compile details of what happened at the (Goron Dutse) police station,” police spokesman Rilwanu Dutse said. “What is certain is that the police station came under bomb and gun attacks.”
An AFP journalist heard five explosions coming from the direction of the Goran Dutse station and saw smoke rising. The explosions later halted from that attack and no one immediately claimed them.
Details were not immediately clear from the Panshekara station. Police had not officially commented, but a police source confirmed the attack.
Kano, Nigeria’s second city and the largest in the north, was the site of Boko Haram’s deadliest attack yet, when coordinated bombings and shootings left at least 185 people dead in January.
The Islamist group’s insurgency, concentrated in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, has killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009.
Security forces have frequently been the victims of its attacks, though it has continually widened its targets.
It has recently taken to attacking churches on Sundays, leading to deadly reprisal violence from Christian mobs in the city of Kaduna earlier this month and sparking fears of wider unrest.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
On Sunday, President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram was seeking to incite a religious crisis by attacking churches in an attempt to destabilise the government.
Jonathan, who has come under heavy criticism in recent days over the spiralling violence, described how the group had moved from targeting local rivals to government institutions and now churches.
“Attacking churches is to instigate religious crisis,” Jonathan said during a question-and-answer session on national television.
“They believe that when they attack a church, Christian youths will revolt against Muslim youths. They don’t care about who dies in the process.
“If it doesn’t work, the same Boko Haram will start attacking mosques to instigate Muslim youths to attack Christians. So they change their tactics.”
On Friday, Jonathan fired his national security adviser and defence minister.
There have been growing warnings that there could be more cases of residents taking the law into their own hands if something is not done to halt Boko Haram’s attacks.
The group initially said it was fighting for the creation of an Islamic state, but its demands have since shifted repeatedly. It is believed to have a number of factions, including a main Islamist wing.
Many say deep poverty and frustration in the north have been main factors in creating the insurgency.
The United States on Thursday said it had designated the head of the main branch of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, a “global terrorist” along with two others tied to both Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.