A man was shot dead by Nigerian police in a failed attempt to bomb police headquarters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, a day before a report on Islamist sect attacks in the region is submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Police said they believed the man planned to detonate remotely seven gas cylinders and cans of gunpowder and petrol that were packed into the car.
“The man … gained entrance by ramming into the gate of the police headquarters and drove straight towards the main building before he was gunned down inside his car,” local police spokesman, Abubaker Kabru, said, Reuters reports.
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has been the scene of months of attacks by Boko Haram, whose name roughly translated from the local Hausa language is “Western education is sinful”. More than 150 people have been killed in attacks this year in the city of around 1.2 million.
Attacks are growing in intensity and spreading further afield. The group claimed responsibility for a June bomb in the car park of police headquarters in the capital Abuja, an attack similar to the bombing attempt on Monday.
Thousands have fled Maiduguri due to the bombings and reprisal strikes by a military Joint Task Force, which has been accused of brutalisation by rights groups and local leaders.
Jonathan set up a seven-man committee on August 2 to investigate security problems in the northeast region where Africa’s most populous nation borders Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
The committee is due to submit its findings on Tuesday.
“We have already contacted some respected and influential Islamic clerics to help contact members of the sect to dialogue with the government and restore normalcy to our society,” said Usman Galtimari, chairman of the committee, during a trip to Borno state on Saturday.
“The government is sincere in its commitment to dialogue with sect members so as to achieve peace.”
There is no sign of a let-up in the violence. A prominent Muslim cleric was killed by suspected members of Boko Haram late on Friday, the police said. He was followed back from the mosque to his home before being shot dead.
Violence in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt”, where the mostly Christian south meets the largely Muslim north, has flared up again in the last two weeks, adding to already heightened security concerns.
Several people were killed on Monday in clashes between Christian and Muslim youths and the military in Jos, the capital of central Plateau state, scene of years of deadly violence.
A spokesman for the military said troops had withdrawn after a protest by youths demanding they leave after gang members were killed in gunfights with soldiers.
Hundreds were killed in Plateau state earlier this year.
Tensions are 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 Muslim north.