July 27, 2009 / 10:44 AM / 9 years ago

Muslim rebels expand attacks to two Nigerian states

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Muslim rebels attacked Nigerian police stations in two northeastern states overnight, killing at least one fireman, a day after more than 50 people died in clashes in Bauchi state, sources said on Monday.

The leader of the small Islamic group Boko Haram, which opposes Western education and demands the adoption of sharia law in all of Nigeria, threatened further attacks against security forces.

“Democracy and the current system of education must be changed otherwise this war that is yet to start would continue for long,” Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf was quoted as saying in an interview with Nigeria’s Daily Trust.

“We don’t have a quarrel with the public, only the authorities.”

Africa’s most populous country is roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims.

More than 200 ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side in the West African country, although civil war left one million people dead between 1967 and 1970 and there have been bouts of religious unrest since then.

Members of the local Islamic group set a police station ablaze in Potiskum, Yobe state, early Monday. One fireman was killed and four police officers were injured, sources said.

In neighbouring Borno state, rebels attacked a police station in the state’s capital Maiduguri. It was not clear if there were any casualties.

The violence is not connected to unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south.

AGAINST WESTERN EDUCATION

Boko Haram, which literally means “education illegal,” began its string of attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi on Sunday after the arrest of some of its members.

More than 50 Nigerians were killed and over 100 arrested in those clashes, prompting the Bauchi state governor to impose a night time curfew for the capital city.

“Bauchi has been quiet overnight but the militants have struck in Yobe and neighbouring states,” said Garba Abubakar, a Bauchi police officer.

The Islamic group is not connected to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Nigeria’s most prominent rebel group responsible for a campaign of violence that has battered Africa’s biggest energy sector since early 2006.

Bauchi, Yobe and Borno states are among the 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states that started a stricter enforcement of sharia in 2000 — a decision that has alienated sizeable Christian minorities and sparked bouts of sectarian violence that killed thousands.

Clashes in Bauchi in February killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens.

Last November, hundreds were killed in two days of fighting in the central city of Jos after a disputed election triggered the worst fighting between Muslim and Christian gangs in years in sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy.

Editing by Giles Elgood

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