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Clashes between sect, police kill 61 in Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Fighting between a radical Muslim sect and paramilitary forces in Nigeria has killed at least 61 people over several days of violence in the nation's northeast that has left churches bombed and people hiding in fear, authorities said.

In hard-hit Yobe state, where at least 50 people died, the government on Saturday ordered a dusk-till-dawn curfew following attacks by the sect known as Boko Haram. In Maiduguri, the capital of neighboring Borno state, bombs reduced at least three churches to rubble and raised fears of further attacks by a group that claimed Christmas Eve bombings last year that killed dozens.

The fighting began Thursday in the two states, with gunfire and explosions heard into the night and the following day in an arid region that borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, and the town of Potiskum bore the brunt of the violence.

In Damaturu, residents fled their homes near the city's central mosque ahead of a combined attack by soldiers and the federal police's feared Mobile Police, known as "kill-and-go" for their propensity for violence. The paramilitary forces raided the area in armored personnel carriers and tanks, with heavy gunfire marking their arrival.

"We were able to kill 12 of the Boko Haram armed sect and bombers," local police commissioner Lawan Tanko said. The commissioner said officers also recovered Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition and explosives.

This is just the latest in a series of bombings over the last year by Boko Haram. The Muslim group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, wants to implement strict sharia law across a nation of more than 160 million people that is home to both Christians and Muslims.

Clashes between sect, police kill 61 in Nigeria 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 8:55pm]
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