KANO - Gun battles and coordinated bomb attacks targeting security forces have spread chaos in Nigeria’s second-largest city Kano, with some 162 people reported dead in the streets on Saturday.
A 24-hour curfew was also imposed on Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and which exploded into violence on Friday evening, with eight police and immigration offices or residences targeted. The main newspaper in Nigeria’s north reported that a purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was in response to authorities’ refusal to release their members from custody. Scores of such attacks in Nigeria’s north have been blamed on Boko Haram.
Some 20 huge blasts could be heard in the city as a suicide bomber attacked a regional police office and a car bomb rocked the outside of state police headquarters after the attacker fled and was shot dead, police sources said. A number of other police posts were targeted, including a secret police building, as well as immigration offices. Gunshots rang out in several areas, and a local television journalist was among those shot dead as he covered the violence. At least 11 police officers were believed to be among the dead. An AFP correspondent counted at least 80 bodies in the morgue at Kano’s main hospital, many of them with gunshot wounds. The toll was thought to be higher. Around 100 people waited outside the morgue to collect their relatives’ remains. Residents reported bodies in the streets, and officials from the Red Cross and the National Emergency Management Agency said they were working to collect bodies and deliver them to morgues. They declined to provide figures on the number of dead, saying they would do so later.
A police source on condition of anonymity said dozens were killed. “There are heavy casualties around the police headquarters,” the police source said. “A lot of civilians have been shot by the attackers. It’s difficult to give a death toll, but the number of the dead runs into dozens.” Details began to emerge of the attacks, which were said to include at least two suicide bombers. At state police headquarters, a would-be suicide bomber sought to join the convoy of the police commissioner, the police source said, but jumped out of the car and sought to escape when officers opened fire. He was shot dead, the source said. President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31 in parts of four states hard hit by attacks blamed on Boko Haram. Kano was not included. Most of the recent major attacks have taken place in the country’s northeast. The limitations of the Nigerian authorities were recently highlighted when the alleged mastermind of a Christmas Day attack outside a church that killed 44 people escaped police custody in suspicious circumstances. Attacks specifically targeting Christians have also given rise to fears of a wider religious conflict in the country, with Christian leaders warning they would defend themselves. Some have even evoked the possibility of civil war.