Targeted police killings in northern Nigeria raise fears of a radical Muslim sect’s return

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nigeria: Targeted police killings raise cult fears

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — The targeted killing of three police officers in northern Nigeria has investigators worried a radical Muslim sect may be making a violent comeback.

An inspector and a corporal were killed in Maiduguri on Wednesday night, while another policeman was killed while guarding the personal residence of Yobe state’s governor. Investigators said late Thursday the killings, which come after the July 2009 uprising by members of the Boko Haram sect, appear to be the work of the outlawed group.

In the Maiduguri attack, gunmen on motorcycle sped up behind the two officers, riding together on a single motorcycle.

“As they were moving, unknown to them, two motorcyclists were trailing them from behind,” Borno state police commissioner Ibrahim Abdu said Thursday. “They came very close to them, opened fire and killed them. They shot them from behind at the back of their necks.”

The gunmen stole the police officers’ rifles before speeding away, witnesses said.

In Yobe state, officers arrested two suspected Boko Haram members, one of whom was downloading a sermon by the sect slain leader, Mohammed Yusuf.

Abdu said military intelligence officers and members of Nigeria’s secret police, the State Security Services, were assisting in the investigations.

Boko Haram — which means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language — has campaigned for the implementation of strict Shariah law. Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim-held north. A dozen states across Nigeria’s north already have mild version of Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.

Boko Haram sect members rioted and attacked police stations and private homes in July 2009, sparking a violent military and police crackdown. About 700 people died.

The group largely went underground after Yusuf’s capture and death, allegedly an execution in police custody. In early March, police arrested 17 officers suspected of taking part in filmed executions that later aired on international news channel Al-Jazeera. A video recording released in late June showed a Boko Haram leader calling for new violence as the one-year anniversary of their attack neared.

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