Nigerian security probe attacks that killed 162

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KANO: Soldiers and police Sunday manned checkpoints in Nigeria’s second largest city after coordinated bombings and gun battles killed 162 people in one of the deadliest attacks to hit the mainly Muslim north.

A round-the-clock curfew imposed shortly after the city exploded in violence on Friday evening, with eight police and immigration offices or residences targeted, was on Sunday relaxed by 13 hours to a night-time curfew.

President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to visit Kano city Sunday, according to sources in the presidency and government.

Streets remained largely deserted Sunday morning despite the partial lifting of the curfew, as armed soldiers and policemen guarded strategic points in the sprawling city.

Troops and policemen manned the many checkpoints set up across the city.

Rescue workers spent Saturday picking up bodies that littered the streets following the attacks that came after Muslim Friday prayers.

A purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was in response to authorities’ refusal to release its members from custody.

Scores of such attacks in Nigeria’s north have been blamed on Boko Haram, though Friday’s would be among the group’s most audacious and well-coordinated assaults.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for scores of attacks including the Christmas Day bombing of worshippers outside a Catholic church in a town near the capital Abuja, which killed at least 44 people.

Elsewhere in northern Nigeria, nine people of a Christian ethnic group were killed in an overnight raid. A local traditional leader in Tafawa Balewa, a flashpoint of sectarian violence, suspected the attackers were Muslims from the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group.

In Kano on Friday some 20 huge blasts reverberated across the city targeting a number of police offices including a police headquarters, a secret police building and immigration offices.

Gunfire then shook a number of areas, and a local television journalist was among those shot dead as he covered the unrest.

Kano had escaped the worst of the violence blamed on Boko Haram in recent months, but the attacks sent residents fleeing in fear of what would come next.

Not many ventured out onto the streets Sunday even as the curfew was eased.

"Following the return of relative calm in the city, the government hereby relaxes the 24 hour curfew," Faruk Jubril, Kano state government spokesman said.

Authorities have not given a precise death toll from the attacks, only saying it would be over 100.

Hospitals have been struggling to cope with the dead and wounded.

A hospital said 162 bodies had been brought to the morgue on Saturday, but the figure was likely to rise, as more bodies were still being picked up.

A source with the Red Cross said his agency alone had counted 121 dead.

An AFP correspondent counted at least 80 bodies in the main morgue, many of them with gunshot wounds, and said there were piles of other corpses he was unable to count.

President Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31 in parts of four states hard hit by attacks attributed to Boko Haram, but Kano was not included.

Most of the recent major attacks have taken place in the country’s northeast.

The state of emergency has not stopped attacks, and the areas targeted have spread beyond the locations covered by the decree.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

The limitations of the authorities were recently highlighted when the alleged mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing escaped police custody in suspicious circumstances.

Attacks specifically targeting Christians have also given rise to fears of a wider religious conflict in the country, with Christian leaders warning they would defend themselves. Some have even evoked the possibility of civil war.

However, attacks blamed on Boko Haram have included a wide range of targets, including Muslims.

The group also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of United Nations headquarters in Abuja that killed 25 people.



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