At least 162 killed as violence escalates in Nigeria

At least 162 people were killed in bomb attacks targeting security forces and gun battles in Nigeria’s second-largest city of Kano, where bodies littered the streets on Saturday, sources said.

A curfew was imposed on Kano in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north after it exploded into violence on Friday evening, with eight police and immigration offices or residences targeted.

The main newspaper in the north said a purported spokesperson for Islamist group Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was in response to authorities’ refusal to release its members from custody.

Scores of such attacks in Nigeria’s north have been blamed on Boko Haram, though Friday’s would be among the group’s most audacious and well-coordinated assaults.

Some 20 huge blasts could be heard in the city as a suicide bomber struck a regional police office and a car bomb rocked state police headquarters after the attacker fled and was shot dead, police sources said.

A number of other police posts were targeted, including a secret police building, as well as immigration offices.

Gunfire shook a number of areas, and a local television journalist was among those shot dead as he covered the unrest.

“We have been receiving dead bodies since last night from relief agencies involved in the evacuation of bodies,” an official at the city’s main morgue said on condition of anonymity.

“At this moment we have 162 bodies in the morgue, and this figure may change because bodies are still being brought,” he added.

A source with the Red Cross said his agency alone had counted 121 dead.

Residents also reported bodies in the streets, as officials from the Red Cross and the National Emergency Management Agency worked to pick up the corpses.

“Between my house and the police headquarters along this street, I have counted 16 dead bodies that litter the streets, six of them policemen,” Naziru Muhammad, who lives near state police headquarters, said on Saturday morning by phone.

One police source, who did not want to be named, said: “There are heavy casualties around the police headquarters.

“A lot of civilians have been shot by the attackers. It’s difficult to give a death toll, but the number of the dead runs into dozens.”

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31 in parts of four states hard hit by attacks attributed to Boko Haram, but Kano was not included.

Most of the recent major attacks have taken place in the country’s northeast.

The state of emergency has not stopped attacks, and the areas targeted have spread beyond the locations covered by the decree.