* Suspected Islamists blow up, torch masts in north
* MTN, Etisalat, Airtel all targeted
ABUJA, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Nigerian police will mount 24-hour surveillance of telecoms equipment across the country following a spate of attacks on phone masts in the north, the head of the force said on Friday.
Suspect Islamist militants have been blowing up, burning or tearing down masts belonging to MTN, Airtel, Etisalat and other mobile groups over the past two days.
It was not clear if Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds this year in the largely-Muslim north, was behind the attacks. The sect, which wants to carve out an Islamic state, usually hits security installations, government offices and churches.
Sources close to the sect said Boko Haram members have been concerned they were being traced through their mobile phones.
The Inspector-General of Police had ordered all regional forces to set up special units "to ensure the safety of telecommunication equipment and installations," a statement from his office read.
In the latest reported attack, gunmen on motorbikes used high-calibre explosives to destroy masts belonging to MTN, Etisalat and privately-owned companies Globacom and Visafone in the north's biggest city Kano on Thursday, police said.
Attackers also wrecked more than a dozen masts in Kano and the city of Maiduguri, the heartland of the Islamist sect, on Wednesday. (Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Additional reporting by Augustine Madu in Kano; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens)