Muslim rebels on Monday expanded their attack against Nigerian security forces to three northern states with at least 80 people dead in two days of clashes,security sources said.
Gun battles between police and members of a local Islamic group,which wants a wider adoption of Islamic law across Nigeria,were reported in Yobe,Kano and Borno states.
The attacks came a day after more than 50 people were killed in neighbouring Bauchi state. The four northern states are among the 12 of Nigerias 36 states that started a stricter enforcement of sharia in 2000 a decision that has alienated sizeable Christian minorities and sparked bouts of sectarian violence that killed thousands.
The government estimates 55 have been killed in the fighting,but security sources and residents say the toll is much higher. Five policemen have been killed,50 (militants) killed and one police station burnt, Nigerias Police Inspector General Ogbonna Onovo told reporters in the capital Abuja. They are out there now in Maiduguri battling the police. We have sent reinforcements there, he added.
A senior member of the rebel group Boko Haram,which opposes Western education and demands the adoption of sharia law in all of Nigeria,threatened further attacks. We do not believe in Western education. It corrupts our ideas and beliefs. That is why we are standing up to defend our religion, Abdulmuni Ibrahim Mohammed said after his arrest in Kano. Even if Im arrested,there are more out there to do the job.
Africas most populous country is roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims.
Members of the Boko Haram set several churches,a police station and a prison ablaze in Maiduguri,the state capital of Borno,residents said. In Yobe and Kano states,clashes between rebels and security forces killed at least four and injured 10. A Kano police spokesman said officers had arrested more than 100 gunmen.