|More than 250 people have been killed by Boko Haram fighters in the first weeks of 2012 [Reuters]|
Nigeria’s Kano state has been shaken by more than an hour of gun battles during which armed men suspected of being members of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, attacked a police station, killing at least one officer.
Police on Saturday confirmed the attack first reported by residents, saying it took place just before 7:00pm (1800 GMT) on Friday.
Gunmen “opened fire on our men and the policemen on duty fired back leading to a shootout,” the AFP news agency cited city police spokesman Magaji Majia as saying, adding that one officer was killed.
Witnesses had earlier said two officers had been killed.
|President Jonathan has called for Boko Haram to state its demands as a basis for talks|
“Gunmen attacked Mandwari police station this evening. The gunfire between them and the police was really bad,” Mohammed Sorondikin, a witness, said on Friday.
“People were scrambling for safety.”
The group killed more than 500 people last year and another 250 in the first weeks of 2012 in gun and bomb attacks in the West African country, according to Human Rights Watch.
The latest clashes came after Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, challenged Boko Haram to identify itself and state clearly its demands as a basis for talks.
“If they clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why we are resisting, this is the reason why we are confronting government or this is the reason why we destroy some innocent people and their properties … then there will be a basis for dialogue,” Jonathan said in an interview with the Reuters news agency in the capital, Abuja,on Thursday.
“We will dialogue, let us know your problems and we will solve your problem, but if they don’t identify themselves, who will you dialogue with?”
Jonathan said there was no doubt that Boko Haram had links with groups that advocate for violent jihad outside Nigeria.
Jonathan’s remarks came as the purported leader of the group issued new threats in a message posted on YouTube, while also saying that last week’s attacks in Kano were over the torture of its members.
“We were responsible,” a voice identified as that of the suspected Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, says in audio played over a picture of him.
|A voice identified to be of ‘Boko Haram leader’ Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the Kano attacks [AFP]|
“I ordered it and I will give that order again and again. God gave us victory.”
A purported spokesman for the group had earlier claimed responsibility for the co-ordinated bombings and shootings on January 20 in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city, which left at least 185 people dead.
Police stations were the main targets.
The man said to be Shekau says in the message that “we attacked the security formations because our members were arrested and tortured. Our women and children have also been arrested”.
He then issues another threat: “They should know that they also have wives and children. We can also abduct them. It is not beyond our powers.
“Soldiers raided an Islamic seminary in Maiduguri and desecrated the Quran. They should bear in mind that they also have primary and secondary schools and universities, and we can also attack them.”
The authenticity of the message could not be independently verified, but the photo matched with previous ones said to be of Shekau and the voice was similar to earlier recordings.
Kano state and its capital city of 10 million people have been under siege in the past few weeks by gunmen from the
militant sect, which wants to impose sharia law across Nigeria.
Boko Haram’s attacks have become more sophisticated and deadly in recent weeks in Africa’s top oil producing country.
A series of gun and bomb attacks, mostly on police stations, killed 186 people in Kano, Nigeria’s second city, last Friday.
Most of the victims were civilians shot dead by the sect, witnesses and police said.
Also in Kano, unidentified armed men abducted a German working for a construction company in the city on Thursday, police said.
Musa Majiya, a police spokesperson, said the man, an engineer, was abducted at a construction site by two armed men in a sedan who “came and handcuffed him and put him in the boot and zoomed away”.
He said that police were investigating the incident.