According to police, 11 people have been killed in multiple blasts and targeted attacks orchestrated by a feared radical Muslim sect in Nigeria’s restive northeast. Borno State police chief Mohammed Abubakar said members of the radical sect locally known as Boko Haram detonated bombs at two police stations and at St. Patrick’s Church Tuesday afternoon in the city of Maiduguri. Ten people died in the attacks including three suspected sect members and a soldier, he said. The multiple blasts come a day after motorcycle-mounted gunmen shot dead Sheik Ibrahim Birkuti, a cleric from a rival sect. The police also blame Boko Haram for killing the cleric Monday at his home in the town of Biu, south of Maiduguri.
Birkuti had been critical of Boko Haram’s violence and belonged to the Wahabbi group, a splinter faction of Sunni Muslims. Boko Haram is also a splinter group of Sunni Muslims who have pushed for the implementation of Shariah law in Borno State. However, Wahabbi has done so through peaceful means, while Boko Haram has vowed to keep killing people believed to support the establishment until Shariah law is adopted alongside other demands. Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. A dozen states across Nigeria’s north already have Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments. Boko Haram is responsible for a rash of killings which have targeted police officers, soldiers, politicians and clerics in Nigeria’s north over the last year. They have also attacked churches and engineered a massive prison break. However, authorities say attacks intensified after April 26 gubernatorial elections kept the same political party in power.
Governor-elect Kashim Shettima promptly reached out to the sect members to calm tensions by offering an amnesty, but a man claiming to speak for Boko Haram told the BBC last month that the group was rejecting the offer. In a separate and more recent interview with the BBC’s Hausa language service, a man claiming to speak for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for three blasts that rocked two cities in Nigeria’s north and a town close to the capital hours after the inauguration of Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the southern part of the country. The National Emergency Management Agency said that 18 people died in the May 29 attacks. Boko Haram was thought to be vanquished in 2009 after Nigeria’s military crushed its mosque into concrete shards, and its leader was arrested and died in police custody. But now, Maiduguri and surrounding villages in Borno state again live in fear.
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