- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

LAGOS, Nigeria — Bombs exploded Tuesday at two major military bases on the outskirts of a central Nigerian city at the heart of ethnic and religious unrest, injuring an unknown number of people.

The attacks came as a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram launches increasingly bloody attacks on Nigeria’s weak central government. No one immediately claimed credit for Tuesday’s bombings, although suspicions quickly fell on the terrorist sect.

The blasts struck at the Nigerian army’s 1st Mechanized Division headquarters and the training command of the Nigerian air force near Kaduna, officials said. Soldiers and security agencies quickly shut down access to the two areas.

A third explosion occurred near a highway overpass, though officials had no details.

It was unclear how many people were wounded in the attacks, though witnesses said they saw injured soldiers wearing blood-drenched uniforms after the blasts. At the 1st Mechanized Division, the glass windows of the division’s headquarters had been blown apart by the power of the explosion.

Lt. Col. Abubakar Edun, a spokesman for the division, said two cars loaded with explosives rammed through the headquarters’ gates. Only one detonated, he said.

Maj. Gen. Raphael Isa, an army spokesman, said in a statement that one of the suicide bombers was dressed in a military uniform. Soldiers guarding the gate opened fire on the man, who died from gunshot wounds.

“The suicide bomber was the only casualty,” Gen. Isa said.

An air force spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment, though military officials in Nigeria often downplay casualties suffered by their personnel.

Kaduna, on Nigeria’s dividing line between its largely Christian south and Muslim north, was at the heart of post-election violence in April.

Mobs armed with machetes and poison-tipped arrows took over the streets of Kaduna and the state’s rural countryside after election officials declared President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, the winner.

Followers of his main opponent, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, quickly alleged that the vote had been rigged, although observers largely declared the vote fair.

Across the nation, at least 800 people died in that rioting, Human Rights Watch said.

The bombings in Kaduna come amid an increase in sectarian attacks by Boko Haram. Its members have been blamed for killing at least 270 people this year alone.

The sect’s violence is part of a campaign described by its leader, Abubakar Shekau, as avenging Muslim deaths and pushing for strict Islamic law across multi-ethnic Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation with more than 160 million people.

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