Nigeria: Boko Haram vow to keep fighting
Kano - Gunmen attacked a police station in Nigeria's flashpoint city of Kano on Sunday sparking a shootout with police, just hours after Islamists vowed to keep up their campaign of violence.
The attack followed the January 20 assault by the Islamist group Boko Haram that killed at least 185 people in Nigeria's second city - and after a string of recent threats of more violence from the group.
Boko Haram's intensifying insurgency, which security forces have struggled to contain, has shaken Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer, mainly in the Muslim-dominated north where the attacks have been focused.
"A large number of gunmen stormed the area at prayer time and opened fire on the police station," Kano resident Kabiru Maikatako told AFP of the Sunday attacks.
The police fired back and a shootout ensued, he added.
"I am now trapped in my [timber] shed. It is shooting all around and the whole area has been deserted. Only the police and the attackers are shooting at each other."
Kano state police commissioner Ibrahim Idriss confirmed the attack.
"I am aware of the attack on the Naibawa police station," he said referring to a district in Kano. "I am yet to get details."
In leaflets distributed around Kano overnight, the group warned residents that it would continue to target the city's security services, but had always tried to avoid harming civilians, a claim seen as baseless by many.
The leaflets could not be independently verified as authentic.
Sunday's shootout took place in the Naibawa motor park, a major bus terminal on the outskirts the city, not far from where a German engineer was kidnapped by gunmen on Thursday.
"We were saying our evening prayers when shooting broke out around the police station," said local resident Sule Adamu.
"We all dispersed without finishing our prayer and moved indoors while passengers who had left the motor park scampered for safety," he added.
Earlier on Sunday, security forces had deployed heavily around Kano guarding churches and frisking worshippers as they arrived to pray.
Some city residents told AFP they had decided to avoid church fearing that Boko Haram would deliver on its threat to carry out fresh attacks.
Abbas Saleh, a taxi driver said he was preparing for evening prayers "when gunshots filled the air with gunmen attacking the police station and shouting Allahu Akbar".
"I abandoned what I was doing and hurried into a nearby shop," he said. "I don't know whether anybody has been killed or injured."
The Islamist group, whose name means "Western Education Is a Sin", is blamed for the deaths of more than 900 people in roughly 160 separate attacks since July 2009.
It has claimed attacks that have killed more than 200 people since the start of this year.
In the leaflet distributed overnight, Boko Haram warned Kano residents to "persevere" as it fights "for the entrenchment of an Islamic system".
Some claim the group is increasingly tied to foreign like-minded organisations such as al-Qaeda, while others say it is pursuing a narrowly domestic agenda and driven by deep-seated religious tensions in Nigeria.
The country is roughly divided between a Christian-majority south and mainly Muslim north and most people live on less than two dollars a day.
As Boko Haram's attacks have escalated its objectives remain largely unknown.
Heavily criticised over his failure to stem the worsening violence, President Goodluck Jonathan urged the group to enter dialogue in a media interview this week.
But Jonathan's call for talks was "not sincere," purported Boko Haram spokesperson Abul Qaqa told journalists by telephone in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, regarded as the group's stronghold.
The group launched an uprising in 2009 that was put down by a brutal military assault.
It fell dormant for about a year before re-emerging in 2010 and is now believed to have a number of different factions, including a hardcore Islamist cell.