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Islamists attack Nigeria police

July 28, 2009|Associated Press

ABUJA, NIGERIA — Islamist militants seeking to impose a Taliban-style regime in northern Nigeria launched attacks Monday on police in three towns, expanding a two-day campaign that has left at least 55 people dead, police and witnesses said.

The violence began Sunday when militants attacked a police station in the northern city of Bauchi, leaving dozens dead in gun battles.

On Monday, militants launched a wave of attacks in three more states, targeting the towns of Maiduguri, Damaturu and Wudil in the predominantly Muslim northern part of the country, police and residents said.

National Police Chief Ogbonnaya Onovo put the overall death toll at at least 55 -- 50 militants and five police officers.

A journalist with the local Compass newspaper in Maiduguri, Olugbenga Akinbule, said he saw the bodies of about 100 Islamist militants slain in gun battles with police in the town, where some of the worst violence occurred.

Authorities did not confirm that toll.

Nigeria has been sporadically racked by sectarian clashes since 1999, when 12 of the country's 36 states began adopting Islamic law, or Sharia.

The radical sect, Al Sunna wal Jamma, or Followers of Muhammad's Teachings, is made up mainly of young Nigerians who want to create a Taliban-style state.

The group came to prominence with a wave of similar assaults on New Year's Eve 2003. It is also known as Boko Haram.

A local newspaper, Daily Trust, quoted the leader of the sect, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, as saying his followers were ready to die to ensure the institution of a strict Islamic society.

Onovo vowed to arrest the group's leaders.

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