Nigeria Gunmen Kill Three Police Officers, Civilian

Suspected Islamic militants killed three police officers who were on a “stop-and-search operation” yesterday in Maiduguri, capital of the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, police spokesman Lawal Abdullahi said.

A civilian was also killed in a separate attack on a church, which was foiled by police, Abdullahi said by phone today. Two days ago the militant Islamic group Boko Haram shot and injured three people, including a retired police officer, in Borno, Abdullahi said yesterday.

The attacks follow a Christmas Eve assault on two churches in Maiduguri and multiple bomb blasts in Jos, capital of the central state of Plateau. At least 86 people were killed in the attacks, according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. A Muslim group in Nigeria identifying itself as Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad claimed responsibility for both assaults.

Members of Boko Haram, which opposes Western-style education and draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s Taliban, attacked police stations across several northern Nigerian cities in July 2009, prompting the government to deploy troops. At least 700 people died in the fighting. Security forces shelled the group’s headquarters in Maiduguri, killing its 39-year-old leader, Mohammed Yusuf.

Gunmen suspected of belonging to the group attacked a prison in the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi on Sept. 7, freeing 721 inmates, including scores of its members awaiting trial for the 2009 violence.

Africa’s top oil producer and most populous country, with more than 140 million people, is roughly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south and has suffered outbursts of sectarian violence. At least 14,000 people have died in ethnic and religious violence since 1999 in Nigeria, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

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