Bombs kill 25 at Nigerian drinking spot – sources

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria,  (Reuters) – Suspected members of  a radical Islamist sect threw bombs at a drinking spot in  Nigeria’s northeastern town of Maiduguri yesterday, killing  around 25 people, witnesses and military sources said.

The attackers — who the military said were suspected  members of the Boko Haram sect — threw three sets of explosives  from the back of motorbikes at around 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) and  appeared to be targeting police officers, witnesses said.

“Around 25 people have been killed in a multiple bomb blast  in the Dala ward of Maiduguri,” a military official said, asking  not to be named.

The National Emergency Management Agency said it was working  with other rescue teams to evacuate the injured but gave no  further details.

Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced  militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres  away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security threat in  Africa’s most populous nation in recent months.

Boko Haram, which says it wants a wider application of  strict sharia Islamic law in Nigeria, claimed responsibility for  a bomb blast 10 days ago outside the national police  headquarters in the capital Abuja.

The sect has been responsible for almost daily killings and  attacks on police and government buildings in and around  Maiduguri, which lies near Nigeria’s remote northeastern borders  with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Boko Haram’s former leader, self-proclaimed Islamic scholar  Mohammed Yusuf, was shot dead in police custody during a 2009  uprising in which hundreds were killed. His mosque was destroyed  with tanks and the security forces claimed a decisive victory.

But low-level guerrilla attacks on police stations and  assassinations, including of traditional leaders and moderate  Islamic clerics, intensified in the second half of last year.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first  full term in office a month ago, has voiced support for dialogue  with Boko Haram.

But the group has an ill-defined command structure, a  variety of people claiming to speak on its behalf, and an  unknown number of followers. Some security analysts say its  supporters number in the thousands.

West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate and the sect’s  ideology is not widely supported by Nigeria’s Muslim population,  the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, but poverty and unemployment  have helped it build a cult-like following.

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