At least 55 people have been killed in two days of fighting between Nigerian police and Islamist extremists across two northeastern states, according to police. The militants are looking to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.
Reuters - Muslim rebels on Monday expanded their attack against Nigerian security forces to two northeastern states with at least 55 people dead in two days of clashes, police said.
Gun battles between police and members of a local Islamic group were reported in Yobe and Borno states, a day after more than 50 people were killed in neighbouring Bauchi state.
The violence is not connected to unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south.
"Five policemen have been killed, 50 (militants) killed and one police station burnt," Nigeria's Police Inspector General Ogbonna Onovo told reporters in the capital Abuja.
"They are out there now in Maiduguri battling the police. We have sent reinforcements there," he added.
Africa's most populous country is roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims.
More than 200 ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side in the West African country, although civil war left one million people dead between 1967 and 1970 and there have been bouts of religious unrest since then.
The leader of the rebel group Boko Haram, which opposes Western education and demands the adoption of sharia law in all of Nigeria, threatened further attacks.
"Democracy and the current system of education must be changed otherwise this war that is yet to start would continue for long," Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf was quoted as saying in an interview with Nigeria's Daily Trust.
"We don't have a quarrel with the public, only the authorities."
Members of the local Islamic group set a police station ablaze in Potiskum, Yobe state, early Monday. One fireman was killed and four police officers were injured.
A police spokesman said the situation was under control and violence had subsided.
In neighbouring Borno state, rebels attacked a police station in the state's capital Maiduguri and gunfire was reported throughout Monday morning. It was not clear if there were any casualties.
Boko Haram, which means "education illegal", began its string of attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi on Sunday after the arrest of some of its members.
More than 50 Nigerians were killed and over 100 arrested in those clashes, prompting the Bauchi state governor to impose a night time curfew on the state capital city.
"Bauchi has been quiet overnight but the militants have struck in Yobe and neighbouring states," said Garba Abubakar, a
Bauchi police officer.
The Islamic group is not connected to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Nigeria's most prominent rebel group responsible for a campaign of violence that has battered Africa's biggest energy sector since early 2006.
Bauchi, Yobe and Borno states are among the 12 of Nigeria's 36 states that started a stricter enforcement of sharia in 2000 -- a decision that has alienated sizeable Christian minorities and sparked bouts of sectarian violence that killed thousands.
Clashes in Bauchi in February killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens.
Last November, hundreds were killed in two days of fighting in the central city of Jos after a disputed election triggered the worst fighting between Muslim and Christian gangs in years in sub-Saharan Africa's second biggest economy.
Date created : 2009-07-27