61 die in Nigeria violence
Maiduguri - At least 61 people have been
killed during several days of fighting in northeast Nigeria between security
forces and a radical Muslim sect responsible for a series of increasingly
bloody attacks in Africa's most populous nation, authorities said on Saturday.
The fighting between suspected members of the
sect known as Boko Haram and a joint task force of police and military began on
Thursday in Borno and Yobe states in Nigeria's arid northeast corner bordering
Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The fighting left residents cowering in their homes
amid gunfire and explosions.
At least 50 people have died in Damaturu and
Potiskum in Yobe state during the fighting, local police commissioner Lawan
Tanko told The Associated Press on Saturday. In Maiduguri, the capital of Borno
state, a mortuary official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity
of the matter told the AP at least 11 bodies had been brought in from the
The violence left at least two senior police
officers dead in Yobe state, while a military spokesperson in Borno said that
three churches had been bombed during attacks there.
In Yobe state, the fighting became so intense
that the military ordered those living in a neighborhood surrounding Damaturu's
central mosque to evacuate. After a deadline, soldiers riding in armored
personnel carriers and tanks drove into the neighbourhood shooting, Tanko said.
"We were able to kill 12 of the Boko
Haram armed sect and bombers," Tanko said. The police commissioner said
officers also recovered Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition and explosives.
Boko Haram has launched a series of bombings
against Nigeria's weak central government over the last year in its campaign to
implement strict Shariah law across the nation of more than 160 million people
home to both Christians and Muslims.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a Nov.
4 attack on Damaturu, Yobe state's capital, that killed more than 100 people.
The group also claimed the August 24 suicide car bombing of the UN headquarters
in Nigeria's capital that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.
Little is known about the sources of Boko
Haram's support, though its members recently began carrying out a wave of bank
robberies in the north. Police stations also have been bombed and officers
Boko Haram has splintered into three
factions, with one wing increasingly willing to kill as it maintains contact
with terror groups in North Africa and Somalia, diplomats and security sources
The sect is responsible for more than 450
killings in Nigeria this year alone, according to an AP count.