KANO (Nigeria), Jan 22: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday that arrests were made over a wave of attacks in the city of Kano that killed at least 166 people and vowed to hunt down the backers of Islamist group Boko Haram.
“Some arrests have been made. Some died in the process. Some were suicide bombers,” Jonathan said in a BBC interview during a visit to Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north.
“There must be people who are sponsoring them. Terrorists all over the world have their source of income,” said Jonathan, whose visit came two days after the coordinated bombings and gunbattles rocked Kano after Friday prayers.
Jonathan is battling with the worst crisis of his rule as the sectarian violence has raised fears of an all-out civil war in Africa’s most populous nation and its biggest oil producer.
“We are also looking into those areas to make sure that the so-called Boko Haram... those who are encouraging them, those who are sponsoring them, shall be brought to book,” he vowed.
Jonathan inspected some of the eight sites targeted in the attacks claimed by Boko Haram, including a regional police headquarters, and visited some of the wounded at a military hospital.
He also met the city’s top Muslim traditional leader emir Ado Bayero, and pledged to boost security, saying “a terrorist attack on one person is an attack on all of us”.
But unrest erupted in the north again on Sunday, with 10 people killed in pre-dawn gun attacks in the town of Tafawa Balewa, in the neighbouring state of Bauchi.Bombs were also thrown at two churches in the state capital Bauchi city, but no casualties were reported, police said, while in Kano itself a car bomb was discovered and defused.
Soldiers were manning checkpoints in Kano, but a round-the-clock curfew imposed after Friday’s attacks was relaxed to a night-time curfew, although streets remained largely deserted.
Jonathan imposed emergency rule in parts of Nigeria’s north on Dec 31 after a wave of violence blamed on Boko Haram, including attacks on churches on Christmas Day.
But Kano, which had escaped the worst of the violence blamed on the Islamists in recent months, was not included in the areas covered.
Dozens of people were thronging morgues and searching through stacks of dead bodies in Kano on Sunday looking for their loved ones, while hospitals have been struggling to cope with the dead and wounded.
Relief workers who have been picking up the bodies from the streets said the overall death toll was at least 166, but the authorities have not given a precise number, saying only that the number of dead would be over 100. “As of yesterday, the overall death toll was 166,” said one relief agency source, adding that more than 50 people were wounded.
However, a doctor at a major hospital said the toll could be much higher.
“If truth be told, the overall death toll from the attacks is around 250,”said the doctor, adding that relief workers were still collecting bodies.
“Although the bulk of the bodies were brought here, others were deposited at three other hospitals,” said the doctor, who declined to be named.
A purported spokesman for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it was in response to a refusal by the authorities to release its members from custody.
Around 20 explosions reverberated across the city on Friday, with a police headquarters and other police stations, a secret police building and immigration offices being targeted.
Gunfire also erupted in several areas of the city and a local television journalist covering the unrest was among those shot dead.
The attacks sent residents fleeing in fear or kept many indoors on Sunday.
“How can I go out while such a huge number of the people have been killed? I have to respect the dead,” said food trader Shehu Lawan.
In Sunday’s unrest, 10 people were killed in Tafawa Balewa after gunmen attacked a police station and robbed a bank, police said.
“In the exchange of fire that ensued, a policeman, a soldier and eight unidentified civilians were killed by stray bullets,” police spokesman Mohammed Barau said, adding that six suspects had been arrested.
Bombs were also thrown at a Catholic church and an evangelical church in Bauchi city, but caused minimal damage and no deaths or injuries, police said.
Most of the recent major attacks have occurred in the northeast of the country, with many taking place despite the state of emergency.
Friday’s strikes would be among the group’s most audacious and well-coordinated assaults by Boko Haram.
The group claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bombing of worshippers outside a Catholic church near the capital Abuja, which killed at least 44 people. It also claimed the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that killed 25 people.Attacks specifically targeting Christians have given rise to fears of a wider religious conflict in the country, which is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
But attacks blamed on Boko Haram have included a wide range of targets, including Muslims.—AFP