Bomb, gunfire in northeast Nigerian town

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A bomb followed by bursts of sporadic gunfire hit the northeastern Nigerian town of Maiduguri yesterday, where a militant Islamist sect has been waging a campaign of violence.

The bomb exploded shortly after 7 a.m. (7 a.m. British time) in the Abbaganaram region of the city and sporadic bursts of automatic gunfire continued in surrounding neighbourhoods after the explosion, local residents and the military said.
“The bomb blast in Abbaganaram this morning was targetted at my patrol team. Three of my soldiers were injured in the blast but there has been no death,” a military source told Reuters.

But medical staff at a local hospital said four soldiers had been brought to the mortuary on Wednesday.

Soldiers were searching houses for weapons and blocked some roads into the centre of the town, the capital of the remote northeastern state of Borno.

Radical sect Boko Haram, which says it wants a wider application of sharia Islamic law across Africa’s most populous nation, has carried out assassinations, shootings and attacks with home-made explosives in recent months.

Most of the violence has been around Maiduguri, where more than 150 people have been killed this year, but the group has also struck farther afield, including a bomb outside the national police headquarters in Abuja last month.

Bomb blasts in the north have replaced militant attacks on oil facilities hundreds of kilometres (miles) away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security threat in Nigeria. The United States and European Union have condemned the violence.

Nigeria’s state security service said on Monday it had arrested more than 100 suspected members of Boko Haram and foiled a spate of attempted bombings in the past month and a half.

President Goodluck Jonathan, sworn in for his first full term in late May, has voiced support for dialogue, but the group has said it will only negotiate if demands including the resignation of the Borno state government are met.