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At least 65 killed in clashes between police, militant Islamists

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-27

At least 65 people were killed in fighting between Nigerian police and an Islamist sect inspired by the Taliban across three states, according to police. The militants are looking to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.

AFP - Radical Islamists torched a police headquarters, a church and a customs office, residents said Monday, as police put the death toll in weekend religious clashes in northern Nigeria at 65.

"Five policemen have been killed, one police station burnt and 60 Talibans killed," police Inspector-General Ogbonna Onovo told reporters, referring to an Islamist sect styled on Afghanistan's Taliban.

The latest violence struck the town of Gamboru-Ngala in Borno state, bordering Cameroon, local residents said.

One of the residents, Shafiu Mohammed, said a group belonging to a religious sect known as the Nigerian "Talibans" stormed the town around midnight and went on a rampage.

He said the heavily armed militants set ablaze a customs office and slit the throat of an engineer working there.

"The operation took them two hours. They left around 2:00 am (0100 GMT) without facing any resistance. They were heavily armed and overpowered the police and customs officers," Mohammed told AFP by telephone.

The police chief told reporters in the capital Abuja that 65 people had been killed in police clashes in two other states with members of the Islamist sect inspired by Afghanistan's Taliban.

The two sides had exchanged gunfire after a failed dawn attack Sunday on a police station in Bauchi state, with the death toll there at 39.

There were further clashes in Yobe state, Onovo told a news conference.

The Nigerian Taliban emerged in 2004 when it set up a base -- dubbed Afghanistan -- in Kanamma village in Yobe, on the border with Niger, from where it attacked police outposts and killed police officers.

Its membership is mainly drawn from university dropouts.

The north of Nigeria is majority Muslim, although large Christian minorities have settled in the main towns, raising tensions between the two groups.

Since 1999 and the return of a civilian regime to Nigeria's central government, 12 northern states have introduced Islamic Sharia law.


Date created : 2009-07-27

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