Nigeria: At least 40 die as police battle militants

More than 200 alleged militants were rounded up by Nigerian police after clashes.
At least 40 people were killed as Islamic militants battled Nigerian government police and troops Sunday and Monday in the north-central part of the nation, officials said.

Police and troops were dispatched to the militants’ hideouts after militants began attacks on government establishments early Sunday, said Mohamed Maigari, spokesman for Nigeria’s Bauchi state. As authorities exchanged fire with the militants, 40 people, including one soldier, were killed, Maigari said. In addition, some 215 people were arrested in Bauchi, he said. Besides Bauchi, militants also staged attacks on the nearby states of Yobe and Borno on Sunday and Monday, said Emmanuel Ojukwu, spokesman for the national police. The attacks resulted in a number of civilian, police and militant deaths, but he did not have a specific number. Law enforcement officers were deployed in all three states, and brought the situation under control, he said. The militants used guns, bows and arrows and machetes in the attacks, officials said.

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The militants disagree with the government’s teaching of Islam in the region, maintaining that the government allows itself to be influenced by Western values, and have been attacking government establishments and Islamic clergy. There is a history of religious violence in central Nigeria, where majority-Muslim north Africa meets largely Christian sub-Saharan Africa. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 1,000 people were killed in riots in 2001. The human rights organization alleged last week that police and soldiers killed at least 133 people during two days of riots between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria last year. Most of the victims were young Muslim men, often unarmed, the group charged in testimony before a state commission examining the riots and in a separate report. More than 700 people died in the violence, the group said, citing local religious authorities on both sides of the divide.