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Attackers burn churches in Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria: Suspected members of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram set fire to churches and border posts in northeastern Nigeria yesterday, residents said, but it was not immediately known if there were casualties.
Around 50 gunmen in cars and on motorcycles carried out the attacks on three churches and border posts with neighboring Cameroon, opening fire on police and chanting Allahu Akbar, residents said.
Among the security posts burned were offices for immigration, customs and the secret police and a quarantine building in the city of Gamboru Ngala, about 140 km from the Boko Haram stronghold of Maiduguri. “They opened fire on the security personnel but it is hard to say if anybody was hurt or killed,” resident Modugana Ibrahim said.
Another resident, Hamidu Ahmad, said the gunmen went into town “chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and burnt down the divisional police station and three churches.”
Residents reported gun battles between the assailants and police reinforcements who arrived from Maiduguri.
The sources did not say whether worshipers were in the churches at the time of the attacks, and police and the army could not immediately be reached for comment.
Boko Haram has often targeted churches in its bloody insurgency, as well as police and other symbols of the establishment in Nigeria.
On November 25, 11 people were killed in twin suicide bombings targeting a church at a military barracks in the northern town of Jaji.
Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency in northern and central Nigeria is believed to have left some 3,000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.

Two weeks ago leaflets were circulated round Gamboru Ngala by suspected Islamists saying that women were required to wear the Muslim veil and banning the sale of cigarettes, residents said.
“A tailor named Adamu was shot dead last week by some suspected Boko Haram members for making clothes for women the group consider obscene,” said resident Hajara Umar.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin” in the northern Hausa language, has claimed many attacks in northern and central parts of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer.
Nigeria’s population of some 160 million is roughly divided between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.