KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - More than 100 people were killed in bomb attacks and gunbattles in the Nigerian city Kano late on Friday, a local government security source said, in the deadliest strike claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram to date.
“Definitely more than 100 have been killed,” the senior source, who could not be named, told Reuters.
“There were bombs and then gunmen were attacking police and police came back with attacks.” Hospital staff said there were still bodies arriving at morgues in Kano.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Saturday for the wave of strikes. The sect has killed hundreds in the north of Africa’s most populous nation in the last year.
The attacks late on Friday prompted the government to announce a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the city of more than 10 million people, the country’s second biggest.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been criticized for failing to act quickly and decisively enough against Boko Haram, said the killers would face “the full wrath of the law.”
Kano and other northern cities have been plagued by an insurgency led by Boko Haram, which is blamed for scores of bombings and shootings. These have taken place mostly in the Muslim-dominated north of Africa’s top oil producer, whose main oil-producing facilities are located to the south.
Aimed mainly at government targets, the Boko Haram attacks have been growing in scale and sophistication.
A spokesman for Boko Haram contacted reporters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the sect is based, to claim responsibility for Friday’s bombings. Copies of a letter apparently from the group were also dropped around Kano.
The letter, written in the Hausa language spoken in northern Nigeria, said the attacks were retribution for police arrests and killings of members of the sect.
Police Corporal Aliu Abdullahi, who survived multiple gunshots, described a scene of chaos.
“We were in the mess when we saw people running and heard gunshots from the gate, I saw them shooting. You could not differentiate the Boko Haram members from our Police Mobile Force men because they wore the same uniform,” he said.
“They were more than 50. As I tried to run a bullet hit me on my left hand and another shot hit me on my chest I fell.”
The police said eight buildings were attacked, including police headquarters, three police stations, the headquarters of the secret services and the immigration head office.
“It is with a heart full of sadness and pain that I convey my condolences ... to the families, friends, associates and relatives of all those who lost their lives in the acts of violence in Kano,” President Jonathan said in a statement.
“I want to re-assure Nigerians ... that all those involved in that dastardly act will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
Shooting between police and gunmen went on into the night, residents said. Witnesses said most died from gunshots.
“We are still going around collecting corpses,” a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency in Kano told Reuters. “They are mostly police officers ... some died from injuries from explosions, some from gunshot wounds.”
Witnesses said smoke billowed from the police headquarters after the blast blew out the windows, wrecked the roof and triggered a blaze that firefighters struggled to control.
In one shooting late on Friday, unidentified gunmen killed a cameraman for Nigeria’s Channels TV, Akogwu Enenche, who had recently also contributed stories to Reuters Television, while he was filming at the scene of one of the bombings, witnesses and his family said.
The police did not comment. Enenche was on a Channels TV assignment when he was shot.
“We are shocked and saddened at the death of Channels TV reporter Akogwu Enenche who has contributed footage to Reuters over the last few months. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family at this very sad time,” Thomson Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said in a statement.
Boko Haram became active around 2003 in the northeast state of Borno but its attacks have spread into other northern states, including Yobe, Kano, Bauchi and Gombe.[nLDE80K00V]
Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning “Western education is sinful,” is loosely modeled on Afghanistan’s Taliban.
The sect originally said it wanted sharia, Islamic law, to be applied more widely across Nigeria but its aims appear to have changed. Recent messages from its leaders have said it is attacking anyone who opposes it, at present mainly police, the government and Christian groups.
The African Union on Saturday condemned what it said were the latest “terrorist” attacks in Kano.
A bomb attack on a Catholic church just outside the capital Abuja on Christmas Day, claimed by Boko Haram, killed 37 people and wounded 57.
The main suspect in that attack, Kabiru Sokoto, escaped from police custody within 24 hours of his arrest, and police have offered a 50 million naira ($310,000) reward for information leading to his recapture.
Police arrested him on Tuesday but he escaped when their vehicle came under fire as they were taking him from police headquarters to his house in Abaji, just outside Abuja, to conduct a search.
Last August, a suicide bomber blew up the U.N. Nigeria headquarters in Abuja, killing at least 24 people.
There were two blasts in the southern state of Bayelsa in the oil-producing Niger Delta late on Friday but no one was killed. Police said they were not linked to Boko Haram.
Bayelsa, the home state of President Jonathan, is holding a governorship election next month. Troops have been deployed in the state in recent weeks to stem political unrest.
Additional reporting by Felix Onuah, Segun Owen, Samuel Tife, Joe Brock, Tim Cocks and Austin Ekeinde in Nigeria and Richard Lough in Nairobi; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Tim Cocks