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Nigerian 'Taliban' offensive leaves 150 dead
Islamic group opposed to western education, Boko Haram, launches attacks across four northern provinces
Dead Nigerians are brought to a police station in the northeastern city of Bauchi after a gun battle in the early morning. Photograph: Ardo Hazzad/Reuters.
A self-styled "Taliban" intent on imposing sharia law on all Nigerians widened its offensive yesterday in violence that has left 150 people dead.
Boko Haram, an Islamic group opposed to western education, has launched attacks across four northern provinces over the last two days and declared its intention to fight to the death.
Civilians were pulled from their cars and shot, their corpses then left scattered around the streets, witnesses told the BBC. Its reporter counted 100 bodies, mostly those of militants, near police headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno state. The police and army were on patrol, firing into the air, as hundreds of people fled their homes.
Witnesses said a separate gun battle raged for hours in Potiskum, Yobe state, where members of Boko Haram chanted "God is great!" as they set a police station ablaze. Two people were confirmed dead and the police made 23 arrests.
Three people were killed and more than 33 arrested in Wudil, 12 miles from Kano, the biggest city in northern Nigeria, while the town's senior police officer was wounded.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has more than 200 ethnic groups and is roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims. The predominantly Muslim north has progressively ushered in a stricter enforcement of sharia law since 2000.
Boko Haram, which models itself on the Taliban but has no known link, began its string of attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi on Sunday after some of its members were arrested.
Around 70 militants armed with guns and grenades targeted a police station but were driven back by officers and soliders who then raided neighbourhoods, resulting in at least 55 deaths and up to 200 arrests. The Bauchi state governor imposed a night-time curfew as a result.
Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, leader of Boko Haram, which literally means "education is prohibited", claimed that the government had been targeting his followers and they would never surrender.
He told Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper: "What I said previously that we are going to be attacked by the authorities has manifested itself in Bauchi, where about 40 of our brothers were killed, their mosque and homes burnt down completely and several others were injured and about 100 are presently in detention. Therefore, we will not agree with this kind of humiliation, we are ready to die together with our brothers and we would never concede to non-belief in Allah."
He added: "I will not give myself up. If Allah wishes, they will arrest me; if Allah does not wish, they will never arrest me. But I will never give up myself, not after 37 of my followers are killed in Bauchi. Is it right to kill them, is it right to shoot human beings? To surrender myself means what they did is right. Therefore, we are ready to fight to die.
"Democracy and the current system of education must be changed otherwise this war that is yet to start would continue for long."
Bauchi, Yobe, Borno and Kano are among the 12 of Nigeria's 36 states that started a stricter enforcement of Islamic law in 2000 – a decision that has alienated sizeable Christian minorities and sparked bouts of sectarian violence that has killed thousands.
Clashes in Bauchi in February killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens. A Muslim group attacked Christians and burned churches in reprisals over the burning of two mosques, which Muslims blamed on Christians.
Last November, more than 700 people 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.
Boko Haram is not connected to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the prominent rebel group responsible for a campaign of violence that has battered Africa's biggest energy sector, located in Nigeria, since early 2006.
Source: Guardian UK.
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