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Feared Muslim sect delivers murderous threats in Nigeria

By Njadvara Musa
Associated Press / October 22, 2010

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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — A Muslim sect suspected of a series of targeted killings and a massive prison break has issued new threats in northern Nigeria, this time invoking Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch.

Posters by the Boko Haram sect appeared at key intersections in the city of Maiduguri this week, bearing the name of Imam Abubakar Shekau, the group’s de facto leader. The two top corners of the posters bore a symbol of an opened Koran, flanked on each side by Kalashnikov assault rifles and a flag in the middle — mirroring the logo of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The message warned the public against assisting the police or going near soldiers guarding the town at night. The message also acknowledged a recent reward offered for information leading to the arrest of suspected sect members.

“Any Muslim that goes against the establishment of Sharia will be attacked and killed,’’ the message read.

Boko Haram — which means “Western education is sacrilege’’ in the local Hausa language — has campaigned for the implementation of strict Sharia law. Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. A dozen states across Nigeria’s north have Sharia law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.

The poster said it was from Shekau on behalf of “The Group of the People of Sunnah, Call and Jihad.’’

Police officers began removing the signs late Wednesday.

“These publications and messages on Boko Haram activities are seditious and could jeopardize our investigations into the four-month serial attacks and killings in the state,’’ Borno state police commissioner Mohammed Abubakar said yesterday.

Though the Al Qaeda branch has distributed messages by Boko Haram before, it is unclear whether the two groups have operational links. The two groups also come from two different ethnic groups in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram sect members attacked police stations and homes in July 2009, sparking a violent police and military crackdown. In total, 700 people died.

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