Nigerian cops kill 2 after sect attacks

2012-01-25 14:14

Kano - A young man in traditional robes sobbed as he stood in a pool of blood, surrounded by bullet-scarred walls left behind after a security raid in this northern Nigeria city recently assaulted by a radical Islamist sect.

Residents of this dusty neighbourhood in the city of Kano pressed shoulder-to-shoulder inside the home Tuesday, saying soldiers and others killed the man who lived here and his pregnant wife for no reason.

The local police commissioner acknowledged the attack and said it was part of the government's effort to root out the sect known as Boko Haram, responsible for killing at least 185 people in a Friday attack on the country's second-largest city.

Tuesday's killings highlight the dangers posed by possible reprisal killings and arbitrary arrests carried out by Nigerian security services who are trying to stop Boko Haram's increasingly sophisticated attacks.

Police station attacks

And while the sect remains amorphous and secretive, such assaults may only alienate the same population the government wants to save.

"He didn't belong to any religious group. Is it because of his beard?" asked relative Musa Ibrahim Fatega. "That means you cannot dress the way you are. Is it good? Is this how government is going to treat us?"

Friday's attack in Kano saw Boko Haram members spread through the city, attacking police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of the secret police. The attacks came after authorities refused to release suspected sect members earlier arrested, Kano state police commissioner Ibrahim Idris said.

Much of the bloodshed during Friday's attack occurred when gunmen threw improvised bombs made of aluminium cans and a white powder explosive, likely fertiliser.

More explosives found

Foreign journalists saw the cans on Tuesday, which had been stuffed with cotton at the top, each holding a simple detonator. Idris said gunmen threw the explosives, then fired randomly on those they saw fleeing the blast.

Police say they found 10 car bombs and about 300 of those unexploded cans after the attack - potentially signalling Boko Haram planned further violence in the city of more than 9 million people.

Some Boko Haram gunmen also wore uniforms resembling those of the Mobile Police, the paramilitary arm of the nation's federal police, to take control of the streets during Friday's attack, Idris said. Others had camouflage uniforms like those worn by soldiers in the country, the commissioner said.

"Some of our police officers who saw them on the street thought they were their colleagues," Idris said. "They just shot them in cold blood."

The coordinated attack was Boko Haram's deadliest since they began a campaign of terror last year. Boko Haram has now killed at least 262 people in 2012, more than half of the at least 510 people the sect killed in all of 2011, according to an Associated Press count. Medical workers and emergency officials say they expect the toll may be even higher.