Nigeria police arrest suspected Muslim sect members over police killings, prison break

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nigeria: Police arrest suspected sect members

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Nigerian police arrested 10 members of a radical Muslim sect accused of a recent spate of targeted killings of police officers and local officials, and arrested two more sect followers freed in a recent prison break, an official said Tuesday.

Borno state police commissioner Ibrahim Abudu told The Associated Press that all the men arrested over the weekend confessed to being members of Boko Haram, a feared group in northern Nigeria. Abudu said that the followers targeted officials out of revenge over the arrests of members after the group launched a series of attacks last year.

Most of the victims had previously testified in local courts against sect members.

“The perpetrators of the heinous crimes against our officers and men, including the ward heads are mainly from the 95 sect members that were granted bail,” Abudu said.

Members of Boko Haram — which means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language — rioted and attacked police stations and private homes in July 2009, triggering a violent police and military crackdown during which more than 700 people died.

In the time since, the group went underground to avoid arrest by Nigerian security agencies. In recent weeks, police officers began to fall victim to targeted killings by men riding on the back of motorcycle taxis. The assailants also stole the officers’ rifles and weapons during the attacks.

Abudu said those arrested in the recent sweep did not have any weapons. However, another suspect at large is believed to have made local arms and ammunitions for the Boko Haram, the commissioner said.

The sect also launched a daring sunset raid against a federal prison Sept. 7 in the northern city of Bauchi, freeing more than 750 prisoners. Of those freed, more than 120 were sect members being held after last year’s violence.

Abudu said his men arrested two suspected sect members who escaped the prison.

Boko Haram 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 a form of Shariah law in place, though the region remains under the control of secular state governments.

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