MAIDUGURI, Nigeria â€” A rash of mysterious killings of policemen, politicians and others by gun-wielding motorcycle assassins in this city near the desert has led authorities to declare that a radical Islamic sect thought to have been crushed by Nigerian troops last year has been revived.
Soldiers have been deployed here again, a curfew has been imposed and many residents worry about daylight attacks that officials call a renewal of the anti-Western sect’s strikes on police stations and soldiers last year.
An outright challenge to the Nigerian government appears to be under way, with a twilight prison break last month in Bauchi that freed more than 700, including many jailed sect members; the firebombing of a police station in Maiduguri last week, and the killing of numerous police officers and other leaders in recent months.
The violence here in the north comes at a delicate time for Nigeria, one of the world’s top oil producers and a major U.S. supplier. Although the nation remains stable, it is struggling to organize elections next year that will test the capacity and, ultimately, the legitimacy of its young democracy.
Beyond that, the government faces a renewed threat from militants in the oil-producing south, who claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing during Independence Day celebrations in the capital, Abuja, this month. The southern militants have been waging an insurgency for years against the oil industry, but the bombing was the first time they struck so directly at the heart of Nigerian power.
There, as here, the restiveness is fueled by corruption and glaring economic inequality. States in this region are the country’s poorest, with more than 70 percent of the population living in poverty, according to the United Nations.