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Nigeria Sect Adopts Silent Killings as Bombings Drop, Police Say

A militant Islamic sect in Nigeria increased serial killings in its northeastern stronghold, with 20 people shot dead in the past month as a security crackdown caused a drop in bomb attacks, police said.

“Though explosions have been managed and reduced to the minimum, we are worried about silent killings in the last one month,” Simeon Midenda, Borno police commissioner, said in an interview in the state capital, Maiduguri, on Dec. 14. “I can’t give you the exact figures of the victims but no fewer than 20 died in the last one month.

Authorities in Africa’s most populous country of more than 160 million people blame the Boko Haram sect, which draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, for a surge in violent attacks this year, including suicide bombings and armed assaults on government buildings, police stations and banks in the north and Abuja, the capital. The sect claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 suicide car-bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja that killed 24 people.

At least 425 people, including 70 policemen, have died in attacks by the sect this year, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. Victims have been attacked on the streets, at weddings, in churches and mosques in Maiduguri and other northeastern cities, the police said.

A major difficulty faced by the police and other security agencies is that people are not providing enough information, according to Midenda. Even witnesses have been reluctant to ‘‘voluntarily give vital information,” to security forces, he said.

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer is roughly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. More than 14,000 people died in ethnic and religious clashes in the West African nation between 1999 and 2009, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

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