Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) -- At least 53 people were killed in suicide bombings and attacks in the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu, police said, while a human-rights group said the death toll was about three times higher.
The Taliban-inspired Boko Haram group said it carried out attacks in Yobe and Borno states that started on Nov. 4. Eleven police officers and seven attackers were killed and an overnight curfew was imposed in Damaturu, Yobe state police Commissioner Sulaimon Lawal said. About 152 people died in the violence, said Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress.
“Some who had sustained injuries have died in hospital,” Sani said by phone today from Kaduna, 162 kilometers (101 miles) north of the capital, Abuja. “The attack was not meant to injure, it was meant to kill.”
Authorities in Nigeria say Boko Haram is behind a spate of attacks in the past year in Africa’s top oil-producing nation that targeted government buildings and security forces. The group, which wants to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, said it was behind an Aug. 26 suicide car bomb that killed 23 people at a United Nations building in Abuja.
The U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message Nov. 5, warning American citizens that the group may plan to attack hotels in Abuja, including the Nicon Luxury, the Sheraton Hotel and the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
The message “is eliciting unhealthy public anxiety and generating avoidable tension,” Andrew Azazi, Nigeria’s national security adviser, said in an e-mailed statement today.
Boko Haram Threat
Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri was also rocked by multiple explosions on Nov. 4, including a possible suicide bombing close to the offices of the military’s Joint Task Force. The attacks took place as security forces carried out house-to-house searches for weapons in the city.
“We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop persecuting our members and vulnerable citizens,” Abu Qaqa, a spokesman for Boko Haram, said by phone on Nov. 5.
Three people were killed in attacks in Potiskum, about 120 kilometers west of Damaturu, Aminu Lawal, a police spokesman in Kaduna, said Nov. 5.
Nigerians in the country’s north, especially Christians, are concerned about possible new attacks, after gunmen targeted a church in the latest round of violence, Sani said. Gunmen killed two people and injured 11 others in a raid on a church in Tabak in northern Kaduna, Lawal said.
Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation with more than 160 million people, is split between a mainly Christian south and a north dominated by Muslims.
Jonathan Cancels Trip
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan canceled a wedding trip in southern Bayelsa state and condemned the bombings, the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper reported, citing presidential spokesman Reuben Abati. Abati’s mobile phone was switched off when called by Bloomberg for comment.
The African Union said it was “shocked and deeply disturbed” by the attacks.
The continental body “condemns in the strongest terms these mindless criminal acts and senseless violence, which cannot be justified under any circumstances,” Jean Ping, chairman of the Commission of the African Union, said in an e-mailed statement today.
He urged the Nigerian authorities to “spare no efforts in bringing those responsible for this horrific attack to justice.”