Nigerian attacks leave 178 dead

 

The death toll from gun and bomb attacks in the northern Nigerian city of Kano has risen to at least 178, a doctor in its main hospital said today, making this by far the deadliest attack claimed by the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.

"We have 178 people killed in the two main hospitals," the senior doctor in Kano's Murtala Mohammed hospital said following Friday's attacks, citing records from his own and the other main hospital of Nasarawa.

"There could be more, because some bodies have not yet come in and others were collected early."

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack today. The sect has killed hundreds in the north of Africa's most populous nation in the last year.

The attacks prompted the government to announce a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the city of more than 10 million people. Kano and other northern cities have been plagued by an insurgency led by Boko Haram, which is blamed for scores of bombings and shootings.

These have taken place mostly in the Muslim-dominated north of Africa's top oil producer, whose main oil-producing facilities are located to the south.

Aimed mainly at government targets, the Boko Haram attacks have been growing in scale and sophistication. A spokesman for Boko Haram contacted reporters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the sect is based, to claim responsibility for Friday's bombings.

Explosions struck two churches in the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi this morning, witnesses said, destroying one of them completely, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.

One resident said he heard two explosions at around 2am, before anyone would be likely to be in church, and went out to investigate.

"One of the churches was at the railway line. They just destroyed the gate. But the other one at Fadama was completely destroyed and the roof collapsed," he said, adding that he did not think there were any casualties.

Boko Haram became active around 2003 and is concentrated in the northern states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna.

Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning "Western education is sinful", is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

The sect originally said it wanted sharia, Islamic law, to be applied more widely across Africa's most populous nation but its aims have changed. Recent messages from its leaders have said it is attacking anyone who opposes it, at present mainly police, government and Christian groups.

A bomb attack on a Catholic church just outside the capital Abuja on Christmas Day, claimed by Boko Haram, killed 37 people and wounded 57.

The main suspect in that attack, Kabiru Sokoto, escaped from police custody within 24 hours of his arrest, and police have offered a 50 million naira (€240,000) reward for information leading to his recapture.