A coordinated series of bombings and attacks claimed by a radical Islamist sect left “many” dead and injured in northern Nigeria’s largest city, a Nigerian Red Cross spokesman said yesterday, as gunfire still echoed around some areas of the sprawling city.
Soldiers and police officers swarmed over streets yesterday in Kano, a city of more than 9 million people that remains an important political and religious hub in Nigeria’s Muslim north.
Witnesses of Friday’s attack said they saw seven dead bodies, the scope of the assault claimed by a sect known as Boko Haram suggests the death toll could rise.
In a statement issued late on Friday, federal police spokesman Olusola Amore said attackers targeted five police buildings, two immigration offices and the local headquarters of the Nigerian State Security Service.
“The police have commenced investigations and therefore use this medium to call for calm among the residents of Kano as police are doing their best to bring the -situation under control,” Amore said, adding that police were “appealing to members of the public to come forward with information on the identity and location of these hoodlums. Information given will be treated with utmost confidentiality.”
Whether anyone trusts the police remains another matter as security agencies remain unable to stop the increasingly bloody sectarian attacks by Boko Haram on Nigeria’s weak central government.
Earlier this week, the police acknowledged the alleged mastermind of a Catholic church bombing at Christmas escaped custody, yet another embarrassment for security agencies amid the violence.
Nigerian Red Cross spokesman Nwakpa O. Nwakpa said volunteers continued to offer first aid to the wounded, as well as evacuate those seriously injured to local hospitals. He said officials continued to collect corpses scattered around sites of the attacks.
The attacks began at 5pm on Friday, following afternoon prayers as workers began to leave their -offices in the sprawling, dusty city, witnesses said.
A massive blast at a regional police headquarters shook cars kilometers away. The blast came from a suicide car bomber who drove into the regional headquarters compound and detonated his explosives, deputy superintendent of police Aminu Ringim said. The explosion tore away the headquarters’ roof and blew out the building’s windows.
Inmates at the regional police headquarters fled amid gunfire, witnesses said.
State authorities declared a 24-hour curfew late on Friday as residents hid inside their homes amid the fighting.
A Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message to journalists. He said the attack came because the state government refused to release Boko Haram members held by the police.
Boko Haram has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.
The group’s targets have included both Muslims and Christians. However, it has begun specifically targeting Christians after promising to kill any Christians living in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.
That has further inflamed religious and ethnic tensions in Nigeria, which has seen ethnic violence kill thousands in recent years.
Friday’s attacks also could cause more unrest, because violence in Kano has set off attacks throughout the north in the past, including post-election violence in April that saw 800 people killed. Kano, an ancient city, remains important in the history of Islam in Nigeria and has key religious figures there even today.