6th July, 2011
A heavy explosion followed by bursts of sporadic gunfire hit the northeastern Nigerian town of Maiduguri on Wednesday, where a militant Islamist sect has been waging a campaign of violence.
According to Reuters, the blast, which appeared to come from the centre of the town, shattered windows in surrounding neighbourhoods shortly after 7 am (0600 GMT) and was followed by sporadic bursts of automatic gunfire, a Reuters witness and local residents said.
â€œPeople ran out to see where this thing had happened. There were huge plumes of smoke which seemed to be coming from the Abbaganaram neighbourhood,â€ one of the witnesses said. Soldiers blocked some roads into the centre of the town, the capital of the remote northeastern state of Borno, and residents who had set off for work turned back.
Radical sect Boko Haram, which says it wants a wider application of sharia Islamic law across Africaâ€™s most populous nation, has carried out a string of 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 since the start of the year, but the group has also struck further afield, including a bomb outside the Police Headquarters in Abuja last month.
The United States and European Union have condemned the violence.
Nigeriaâ€™s State Security Service (SSS) said on Monday it had arrested more than 100 suspected members of Boko Haram and had foiled a spate of attempted bombings in the past month and a half.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first full term in office 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.
At least 40 people have died in Maiduguri in the past 10 days in attacks blamed on the sect.
Yesterday the police in Bauchi killed three suspected members of the group after a six-hour standoff in Anguwan Kur area.
Also in Borno State yesterday, five suspected Boko Haram members shot and killed two policemen. One of the cops killed was identified as Babagana Angus attached to the State CID.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to Governor Danbaba Dafulani Suntai of Taraba State on Special Duties, Barrister Kasiru Dodo, has been arrested by the state police command following allegation that some members of Boko Haram were holding meetings in his house.
Dodo, who is also an immediate past member of the State House of Assembly representing Jalingo II Constituency, was arrested in his house at Kofan Seriki at Majidadi Ward in Jalingo by a team of policemen and was whisked away to the state police headquarters in Jalingo.
A dependable police source told P.M.NEWS this morning that the Special Adviser was detained after being subjected to thorough interrogation by the police.
The source added that a combined police team of the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and the Criminal Investigation Bureau, CIB, led by an Assistant Police Commissioner, drove out of the state police headquarters yesterday afternoon with Barrister Dodo to search his houses, including his guest house located at Mile 6 area of Jalingo.
The Taraba State Police Commissioner, Mrs. Thutua Onu, was not available when P.M.NEWS visited the police headquarters this morning to confirm the arrest of the Special Adviser.
A senior police officer in her office, who craved anonymity, confirmed to P.M.NEWS that Dodo was still in the custody of the SARS, adding that some people suspected to be members of the Boko Haram have also been arrested.
Before the arrest of the Special Adviser to the governor yesterday, the police had mounted road blocks all over Jalingo town. They also intensified a thorough search on vehicles while well-armed policemen were stationed to keep vigil at the police headquarters.
â€”Ben Adaji/Jalingo with Agency Reports