Blast kills five at northeast Nigeria bar

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria Sun Jul 3, 2011 8:14pm BST

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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - An explosion killed at least five people and injured 10 more on Sunday at a bar near a police barracks in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri, the latest apparent attack by radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.

The group, which says it wants a wider application of sharia Islamic law across Africa's most populous nation, has been blamed for almost daily killings and a series of explosions in the northeast in recent months.

The United States and European Union have condemned the violence, which is estimated to have killed more than 150 people since the start of the year.

"Five people have been confirmed dead while 10 others sustained various degrees of injuries," Major General Jack Nwaogbo, commander of a joint police and military taskforce in the city, told Reuters shortly after Sunday's attack.

He said the attack happened at around 5:30 pm (1630 GMT).

The newly-appointed head of a local government council was assassinated by gunmen believed to be Boko Haram members earlier on Sunday, while four people were shot dead late on Saturday night by gunmen on motorbikes, a strategy used by the sect.

Home-made bombs thrown at a bar in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, killed around 25 people exactly a week ago in the single most deadly attack so far. Three more people were killed in a similar strike in the town the following day.

Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security risk in Nigeria in recent months.

The unrest has spread beyond Boko Haram's home region in the far northeast, providing a growing security headache for President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first full term in office just over a month ago.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a bomb blast which killed at least two people two weeks ago outside the national police headquarters in the capital Abuja. The explosion appeared to have been targeting the inspector-general of police.

West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate and Boko Haram's ideology is not widely supported by Nigeria's Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, but poverty and unemployment have helped it build a cult-like anti-government following.

The cult's former leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was captured during a 2009 uprising in which hundreds were killed and he was shot dead in police custody. His mosque was destroyed by tanks and security forces claimed a decisive victory.

Low-level guerrilla attacks on police stations and killings, including of traditional leaders and moderate Islamic clerics, intensified in the second half of last year in what some analysts see as retaliation for the 2009 security crackdown.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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