Gunmen in Nigeria attack, kill 4 people

April 9, 2012 - 3:06 PM

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen suspected of being members of a radical Islamist sect have killed at least four people — including a 6-year-old girl — in recent attacks in Nigeria's restive northeast, authorities said Monday.

In the northeastern city of Potiskum, gunmen opened fire on a policeman and his family, killing the policeman's 6-year-old daughter, Yobe State police spokesman Toyin Gbadegeshin said.

Early Monday, gunmen killed three people when they attacked a police station, a church and a bank in the border town of Dikwa in the northeast.

Joint Security Task Force spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said a local politician, a police officer and civilian and three gunmen were killed in early Monday's attack.

Musa blamed the attack on members of the Boko Haram sect.

Gbadegeshin, the Yobe state spokesman, also blamed Boko Haram, a group waging an increasingly bloody fight with security agencies and the public. More than 390 people have been killed in violence blamed on the sect this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

The attacks follow a Sunday suicide bombing in the city of Kaduna. That attack killed at least 38 people in a massive blast that rattled a city long at the center of religious, ethnic and political violence in the nation.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that Washington strongly condemned the bombing.

"This violence has no place in a democracy," she told reporters in Washington. "We support the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to bring the perpetrators of these violent acts to justice, and we stress the importance, nonetheless, of respecting the human rights and protecting civilians in any security operation."

Nuland added that to her knowledge the U.S. had not been asked to support any investigation, "but obviously would be prepared to consider a request like that if it came to us."

While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, suspicion immediately fell on Boko Haram. Some fear the attack could further inflame tensions around Kaduna, a region on the dividing line between Nigeria's largely Christian south and Muslim north.