Islamic sect claims Nigeria attacks, toll at 86

BAUCHI, Nigeria Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:43am EST

1 of 9. People look at a burnt area after an explosion in Nigeria's central city of Jos in this December 25, 2010 picture.

Credit: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

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BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - A radical Islamist sect said on Tuesday it was behind bombings in central Nigeria and attacks on churches in the northeast of the country that led to the deaths of at least 86 people.

The police said on Tuesday that 80 people were killed in Christmas Eve bomb attacks and clashes two days later between Muslim and Christian youths in central Nigeria, while more than 100 are wounded in hospitals.

"We have recovered 80 dead bodies so far in Jos," Daniel Gambo, an official at the Nigerian emergency management agency said late on Monday.

In a separate incident, six people were killed when petrol bombs were thrown late on Friday at churches in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, in Borno state.

"O Nations of the World, be assured that the attacks in Suldaniyya (Jos) and Borno on the eve of Christmas were carried out by us Jama'atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda'Awatu Wal Jihad, under the leadership of Abu Muhammad, Abubakar bin Muhammad Shekau," a statement said on the group's website.

The radical Islamic group Boko Haram has previously used the name Jama'atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda'Awatu Wal Jihad.

President Goodluck Jonathan has pledged to hunt down those responsible for the bombings but the government has not said who it believes was behind the attacks.

A government spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the claim.

BOKO HARAM

Boko Haram, which wants Islamic sharia law more widely applied across Africa's most populous nation, staged an uprising in Maiduguri last year which led to clashes with security forces in which as many as 800 people were killed.

The chief of defense staff said two suspects had been arrested on Monday in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, in possession of dynamite and dangerous weapons.

Armed police patrolled the streets in Jos and surrounding areas on Tuesday to deter further unrest.

Religious violence flares up sporadically in the central "Middle Belt" of Africa's most populous nation, where the largely Muslim north meets the mostly Christian south.

But co-ordinated bomb attacks have not usually featured in previous violence and the governor of Plateau state has said the attacks were politically motivated.

(Additional reporting by Joe Brock, Shuaibu Mohammed and Felix Onuah; writing by Joe Brock; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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