Nigeria: As Police, Sect Clash – Dozens Killed in Bauchi

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Around 42 people including a soldier were killed yesterday in clashes between police and members of a radical Islamic sect in Bauchi after an armed team of the sect’s followers attacked a police station in retaliation for the arrests of their leaders, hospital officials and security sources said.

There were conflicting figures yesterday as to the exact number of those killed in the violence, and the state police command declined to give any figure.

“We have received a total of 42 bodies,” Awwal Isa, a nurse at the Bauchi Specialist Hospital told AFP news agency by telephone. He said the corpses were of those involved in the fighting between the police and the radical sect.

A reporter for the Reuters news agency counted 32 bodies at two Bauchi police stations and said dozens were wounded among the more than 200 arrested. For his part, Police Force Public Relations Officer Emmanuel Ojukwu said the figure of those killed was in the dozens.

The incident was sparked off after a gang of around 60 men armed with guns and hand grenades attacked the Dutsen Tanshi Police Station, but retreated after a gun battle with the police, spokesman for the Bauchi police command Mohammed Barau said.

The police responded by raiding the group’s neighbourhoods and hideouts around the Bauchi Airstrip, arresting hundreds. Some of the items recovered from the group included army uniforms, boots, explosives and live ammunition.

Secretary of the Red Cross Adamu Abubakar said they took 16 wounded people to the hospital but declined to give the number of the dead, saying this was for the police to reveal. When our correspondent visited the Specialist Hospital, he was not allowed to talk to the victims of the clashes.

The Bauchi police spokesman said the armed gang belonged to the Boko Haram group, a local group opposed to the propagation of western form of education. They are members of a new Islamic sect headed by Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, a cleric based in Maiduguri, Borno State.

A member of the gang who was wounded during the initial attack on the police station told Reuters the group wanted to “clean the (Nigerian) system which is polluted by western education and uphold Sharia all over the country.”

“The police have been arresting our leaders, that is why we decided to retaliate,” said the man, who gave his name only as Abdullah.

Members of the group have also said they were not being allowed by the government to publicly practice their religion and propagate their beliefs.

Though the police said normalcy has returned to the city, the state government later yesterday announced the imposition of a curfew in Bauchi from 9pm to 6am.

Addressing a news conference, Governor Isa Yuguda said the radicals were militants whose activities was a national issue not restricted to Bauchi. He called on governors in the country to rise to the challenge and crush militancy in their states.

Commenting on the matter, Minister of Police Affairs Dr Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, who was in Bauchi for the weekend, assured that the Inspector General of Police has been put on the alert to ensure security of lives and property all over the country.

Our correspondent reports that people were going about their normal business in Bauchi after yesterday’s violence, which was the second major incident in the city this year after the sectarian clashes that claimed 11 lives in February.

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