Nigeria: Curfews quell attacks

2009-07-28 14:47

Abuja - Police in Nigeria say areas affected by battles between the country's security forces and radical Islamists have gone tense but calm as security forces hunt down the culprits overnight.

Police said the affected areas were calm on Tuesday. National police spokesperson Emmanuel Ojukwu said police were patrolling in force to quell the violence, but he had no new casualty total.

Authorities in Nigeria have imposed curfews and deployed security reinforcements in the streets to quell two days of violence sparked by Islamic militants that has killed dozens of people.

Sporadic gunfire was reported in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, where some of the worst occurred on Monday.

Journalist Olugbenga Akinbule of the local Nigeria Compass newspaper said police were exchanging intermittent fire with militants as they tried to raid their camps in the city.

Akinbule said more than 3 000 people had been displaced in Maiduguri.

Violence erupted in the northern city of Bauchi on Sunday and spread the next day to three other predominantly Muslim northern states, as radical militants seeking to impose a Taliban-style regime in northern Nigeria launched a coordinated wave of assaults on police and police stations in the region.

Security operatives

Mohammed Maigari Khanna, a spokesperson for the governor of Bauchi state, where the violence first began, said security forces were searching for militants who had tried to flee the state and had arrested some of them. He said a dusk-to-dawn curfew had been imposed, and "there is presence of security operatives all over the place".

In Kano state's Wudil district, where militants on Monday attacked a police station, 17 people were arrested overnight, bringing the total detained there to 53, according to Kano state police spokesperson Baba Mohammed. He said Kano was calm and police reinforcements had arrived to back up local security forces.

Nigeria has been sporadically wracked by sectarian clashes since 12 of the country's 36 states began adopting Islamic law, or Shariah, in the north in 1999.

The radical sect behind the latest violence is known by several different names, including Al-Sunna wal Jamma, or "Followers of Mohammed's Teachings" in Arabic, and "Boko Haram," which means "Western education is sin" in the local Hausa dialect. Onovo referred to the militants as Taliban, though the group has no known links to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Analysts say trouble has brewed for months, as police began raiding militant hideouts and finding explosives and arms.

More than 10,000 Nigerians have died in sectarian violence since civilian leaders took over from a former military junta in 1999, though in recent years such violence has eased.