New York Times (AP)
31 December 2011
President Goodluck Jonathan also ordered the closing of international borders near the affected areas, which include parts of the northeastern state of Yobe, and the central states of Plateau and
Those areas were hit by attacks on Christmas Day that left at least 42 people dead, and for which a radical sect known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility. The attacks targeted churches and a state office of
’s secret police. Nigeria
The president also declared a state of emergency in parts of the northeastern state of Borno, a Boko Haram stronghold.
“What began as sectarian crises in the northeastern parts of the country has gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security,” Mr. Jonathan said in an address on national television.
He said he had directed top security officials to set up a special counterterrorism unit to fight the growing threat posed by Boko Haram.
The Christmas attacks come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in the central city of Jos, which lies on the line where the country’s largely Muslim north meets its largely Christian south. Last year’s Christmas attacks claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.
In August, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in the capital,
, which killed 24 people and wounded 116 others. Abuja
The sect, some of whose members are believed to have links to Al Qaeda, wants to impose Shariah law across
The United States Embassy warned American citizens to exercise caution in
“Violent extremist attacks have continued in various locations, including the states of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Plateau and Yobe, resulting in numerous casualties,” the warning read.
Boko Haram’s widening attacks, though, are intensifying religious divisions in
. In this nation of more than 160 million people, Nigeria Africa’s most populous, thousands have died in recent years in communal fighting.
The sect came to national prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of
Maiduguri, a dusty northeastern city on the cusp of the Sahara. ’s military violently put down the attack, crushing the sect’s mosque into shards and arresting the sect’s leader, who died in police custody. About 700 people died during the violence. Nigeria
After the riots, Boko Haram carried out hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorcycles. Recently, however, the group has planned more sophisticated attacks that have produced greater casualties.
The shift has fueled speculation about the group’s ties to other organizations, including the North African wing of Al Qaeda, diplomats and security officials say.
In unrelated ethnic violence, more than 40 people were killed in eastern
’s Ebonyi state on Saturday. The clashes erupted from a long-running rivalry between the Ezza and Ezillo people that periodically flares into violence, said a state police spokesman, John Elu. Nigeria