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Nigerian police arrest 92 over Islamist sect attacks

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 31 Dec 2010 12:15 GMT
Author: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. Click For Restrictions.
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* Suspected members of radical sect Boko Haram arrested

* Three attacks kill at least 16 people, including police

* Boko Haram claimed Christmas Eve bombs killing 80

By Ibrahim Mshelizza

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Nigerian police have arrested 92 suspected members of a radical Islamist sect after a string of attacks this week in the northeast of Africa&${esc.hash}39;s most populous nation, a police spokesman said on Friday.

Police said Boko Haram, which wants strict Islamic law imposed throughout Nigeria, was behind the deaths of at least 16 people in three attacks this week in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

"The police in Borno have arrested 92 suspected members of Boko Haram including their financiers and taken them to police force headquarters in Abuja for interrogation and prosecution," police spokesman Abubaker Abdullahi said.

The sect also claimed responsibility for Christmas Eve bombings in the central Nigerian city of Jos which killed at least 80 people and left more than 100 wounded.

President Goodluck Jonathan will be hoping the police crackdown boosts security as he campaigns in ruling party primaries in January which are set to be the most fiercely contested in more than a decade.

Jonathan can ill afford a security crisis, as any unrest is likely to be used by his rivals to undermine his credibility.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful" in the Hausa language spoken across northern Nigeria, is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of people died in religious and ethnic clashes at the start of the year in the "Middle Belt", the central region where the mostly-Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south.

The tension is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the north.

Nigeria is due to hold a presidential election on April 9, 2011, parliamentary elections on April 2 and voters will elect governors in the country&${esc.hash}39;s 36 states to round off the process on April 16.

(Writing by Joe Brock; editing by Noah Barkin)

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