Fear hampers hunt for Nigerian Islamists

2010-11-29 14:06

Kano - Fears of reprisals have prevented residents from providing police with information on Islamist sect members blamed for a series of recent attacks in northern Nigeria, police said on Monday.

Police in Borno, the northern state that was the centre of an uprising last year by the sect, have in recent weeks encouraged residents to call with tips on the Islamists, but only two people have volunteered information.

"The situation is not encouraging because residents are not forthcoming with information that could assist us in getting at the Boko Haram members and end this cycle of senseless killings," Borno state police commissioner Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar told AFP.

The Boko Haram sect has been blamed for a series of killings targeting police officers, local chiefs, clerics and politicians, as well as attacks on police stations and a prison.

Security sources say around 50 people have been killed over the past five months. Many of the killings have occurred in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

"We understand the reluctance is not borne out of support for the group, but out of fear that the group would attack them if they cooperate with us, and our repeated assurances that their identities would be protected has not helped," Abubakar said.

Residents have expressed fears of reporting sect members in interviews with AFP.

Last month, suspected members of Boko Haram issued fliers in Maiduguri threatening to kill any resident who provides police with information on their activities.

The uprising by the sect last year ended with a brutal police and military assault that left hundreds dead and the group's mosque and headquarters in ruins.