LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A radical Muslim sect reponsible for attacks that left more than 100 people dead in northeast Nigeria this week could bomb three luxury hotels frequented by foreigners in the oil-rich nation’s capital, the U.S. Embassy warned Sunday.
The unusually specific warning from U.S. diplomats identified possible targets of the sect, known locally as Boko Haram, as the Hilton, Nicon Luxury and Sheraton hotels. Those hotels draw diplomats, politicians and Nigeria’s business elite daily in the country’s central capital of Abuja.
The embassy said that the attack may come as Nigeria celebrates the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha and that its diplomats and staff had been instructed to avoid those hotels.
Deb MacLean, an embassy spokeswoman, declined to offer further details about the threat or the source of the information Sunday.
The warning came as a Nigerian Red Cross official said Sunday that more than 100 died in a series of attacks in northeast Nigeria launched by the radical Muslim sect, as sect gunmen shot and killed another police officer.
Ibrahim Bulama told the Associated Press he expected the number of dead to rise as local clinics and hospitals tabulate the casualty figures from the attacks Friday in Damaturu, the capital of rural Yobe state.
While the hard-hit city remained calm and its Muslim inhabitants celebrated the religious holiday Sunday, army and police units manned roadblocks leading into the town and streets remained largely quiet, Mr. Bulama said.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram killed a police inspector Sunday in the city of Maiduguri, the sect’s spiritual home, about 80 miles east of Damaturu. Sect gunmen stopped the officer’s car at gunpoint as he neared a mosque to pray with his family, local police Commissioner Simeon Midenda said.
Gunmen ordered the family away, then shot the inspector to death, Commissioner Midenda said. The sect members later allowed his family to drive the car away, he said.
The killing prompted a frank acknowledgment from the police commander, whose men remain under siege from constant assassinations by the radical sect.
“Our men who live in the midst of the Boko Haram are not safe,” Commissioner Midenda said.
Statements issued late Saturday show the U.N. Security Council called the attacks Friday in the cities of Damaturu and Maiduguri “criminal and unjustifiable” and asked members to help Nigerian authorities bring those responsible to justice.
A statement on behalf of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “an end to all violence in the area” while offering sympathy for the victims.
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday appealed for an end to all violence, saying it only increases problems, sowing hatred and division even among the faithful. He told tourists in St. Peter’s Square that he is following with apprehension the news from Nigeria.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks Friday, which included suicide bombings and shootings.
Boko Haram wants to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, an oil-rich nation of more than 160 million that has a predominantly Christian south and a Muslim north. Its name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language, but instead of schooling, it rejects Western ideals, such as Nigeria’s U.S.-styled democracy, which followers believe have destroyed the country with corrupt politicians.
Boko Haram’s attacks occurred ahead of Sunday’s celebration, or the Feast of Sacrifice, when Muslims around the world slaughter sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son. Police elsewhere in the country had warned of violence ahead of the celebration in Nigeria.
An Associated Press count shows the group has killed at least 361 people this year alone.
Associated Press writer Njadvara Musa in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.
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