Gunmen set off bombs in an attempted prison break in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe late on Friday and then blew up the local police station, killing two policeman, the city’s commissioner of police said.
Witnesses in Gombe heard multiple explosions late on Friday in the city, which has been largely free of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency plaguing the north of Africa’s top oil producer.
“There were several explosions. They wanted to break open the prison, but the policemen on guard there repelled them,” Gombe police commissioner Gandi Ebikeme Orubebe said be telephone.
“So they attacked the police station and blew up everything there. Two policeman died, one soldier was injured,” he said, adding that 10 of the attackers had been killed and three suspects arrested.
Orubebe said there were no Boko Haram members in the Gombe prison.
Because the secretive sect rarely claims attacks, except the most high profile, it has become a convenient cover for criminal gangs, similarly armed with guns and explosives.
Asked if the attackers were from Boko Haram, Orubebe said: “We can’t know. They could be hoodlums, criminal elements, miscreants. We’ve not had any problem with Boko Haram before in Gombe, but that fact that lightening has not struck does not mean it won’t ever strike.”
Further northwest, in Kano, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram opened fire on worshipers in a mosque, killing five, local police spokesman Majiya Musa said.
“They came on the back of a motorcycle and shot sporadically at worshippers this evening ... the situation is now under control. An investigation has been launched,” the spokesman said.
The Islamist insurgency used to be confined mostly to its heartland in the remote northeastern city of Maiduguri, but in the past six months has radiated out across the largely Muslim north and struck the capital Abuja a few times.
It is increasingly plaguing Kano, a major trading center and ancient city that was once at the heart of the great caravan routes connecting Africa’s interior with the Mediterranean.