MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen killed eight people in an attack on a police station and a bank in north-eastern Nigeria, a witness and a security official said on Tuesday, in an area frequently targeted by Islamist militants.
The attackers stormed the town of Gwoza late on Monday, close to the Cameroon border in Borno state, where Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds in an insurgency.
It was not clear if the gunmen were Boko Haram members or one of several criminal gangs that have flourished amid worsening security in the north.
“The divisional police officer and two other policemen were killed when the station was attacked and the manager of a local bank and four others also lost their lives,” local resident Umar Yahuza told Reuters.
A security official in Gwoza who asked not to be named confirmed eight people had been killed.
Western governments fear Boko Haram, or factions of it, have linked up with other groups in the region, including al Qaeda’s North African franchise.
The Nigerian group is seeking to carve out an Islamic state in a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
Attacks in northern Nigeria are increasingly targeting foreign interests, especially since a French-led operation last month against Islamists in northern Mali. Nigeria has sent hundreds of troops there to join the operation.
A French family of seven were kidnapped last month just over the Cameroon border, close to Gwoza, by a group claiming to be Boko Haram who said it would kill the hostages if authorities did not release Muslim militants held in prison.
On Sunday, the Nigerian military said it killed 20 militants when it repelled an attack a barracks in Borno state.
Gunmen killed a security guard and abducted a Briton, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese workers after storming the compound of Lebanese construction firm Setraco in Bauchi state on February 16.
Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza and Isaac Abrak; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Tim Cocks and Andrew Heavens