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Islamist sect kills 150 in series of attacks

- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2012

KANO, Nigeria — More than 150 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks Friday by a radical Islamist sect in north Nigeria's largest city, according to an internal Red Cross document seen Sunday by an Associated Press reporter.

President Goodluck Jonathan also arrived in Kano on Sunday afternoon to pay his condolences, as military helicopters flew overhead.

A spokesman at Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital in Kano, the city's largest hospital, declined to immediately comment Sunday on the latest count.

But the toll of the attacks could be seen all around.

Armed police drove by the hospital in a pickup truck with a corpse wrapped in a white burial shroud. Children outside the hospital sold surgical masks. Once used only for the heavy dust in this sprawling city, the masks now are being used by responders going into the hospital's overflowing mortuary.

Soldiers in bulletproof vests carrying assault rifles with bayonets stood guard at roundabouts in areas where the sect had attacked.

At the regional police headquarters in Kano, which sustained particularly heavy damage, soldiers refused access to AP reporters.

Friday's attacks by Boko Haram hit police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of Nigeria's secret police in Kano, a city of more than 9 million people that remains an important political and religious center in the country's Muslim north.

The coordinated attacks represent the extremist group's deadliest assault since beginning its campaign of terror in Africa's most populous nation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the multiple attacks, according to a statement.

"The Secretary-General is appalled at the frequency and intensity of recent attacks in Nigeria, which demonstrate a wanton and unacceptable disregard for human life," the statement said.

Mr. Ban also expressed "his hope for swift and transparent investigations into these incidents that lead to bringing the perpetrators to justice."

A Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message to journalists Friday. He said the attacks were launched because the state government refused to release Boko Haram members held by the police.

Mr. Jonathan also condemned the attacks.

But his government repeatedly has been unable to stop attacks by Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north.

The group has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law and avenge the deaths of Muslims in communal violence across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

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