150 killed in militant sect attack in Nigeria

Abuja: At least 150 people were killed in northeast Nigeria after a radical Islamic sect bombed police stations, churches and mosques as it stepped up its campaign to impose Sharia law in Africa`s most populous country.

At least 63 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Damaturu on Friday, the Red Cross said. But rescue agency officials said they counted up to 150 bodies at a mortuary and various places. Witnesses said the bombs hit several targets, including churches and the headquarters of the Yobe state police.

Another suicide attack in neighbouring Maiduguri town left four dead on Saturday. The casualties in the Damaturu and Maiduguri attacks include seven policemen and two soldiers while 16 persons were injured, officials said. A spokesman for the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram told Nigeria`s Daily Trust newspaper that his group has carried out the latest wave of attacks and warned of more such acts.

"We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop their excesses on our members and vulnerable civilians," he said. The group also attacked churches, mosques and some other public places with bombs even as its armed members engaged the police in a prolonged gun duel, eye witnesses and locals said. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the deadly attacks, said a statement from his spokesman Reuben Abati. "These types of killings are not acceptable and the President is doing everything possible to stop them and security agencies have been mandated to stop such dastardly attacks on the citizens," Abati said.

The string of attacks came two days ahead of the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. Nigerian police and security officials have been put on high alert. The Boko Haram sect has been responsible for a number of sectarian attacks in the recent past in northern Nigeria, posing a big challenge to the nation`s security agencies. The group was also behind the bombing of United Nations` headquarters in the capital on August 26 which killed 23 people and injured over 70.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden", have frequently attacked the police and government officials. The sect has bombed locations around Nigeria as it continues its campaign for the strict implementation of its version of Sharia law across the country.

Nigeria has a population of 150 million shared equally among the Muslims and Christians. Christians are mostly found in the south while Muslims are predominant in the north. The 15-nation UN Security Council released a statement saying it "condemned in the strongest terms" the attacks in Nigeria. The council also expressed condolences to the families.