ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigeria's president said Sunday that ongoing sectarian assaults by a radical Islamist sect are "even worse" than the country's 1960s civil war that saw 1 million people die.
President Goodluck Jonathan's comments about the sect known as Boko Haram came as authorities said that suspected gunmen from the group killed at least six people in separate weekend assaults. The sect has killed at least 52 people in recent days after pledging to target Christians living in the multiethnic nation's Muslim north.
Speaking at a church service honoring the country's military dead, Jonathan said he believes Boko Haram members or sympathizers work in the government and the country's National Assembly, as well as its security agencies.
"The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought," Jonathan said. He added that Boko Haram remains murky. People in the north had told him it could be possible their own children could belong to the sect without them knowing about it, he said.
Nigeria's civil war began in 1967, when the Igbo people of Nigeria's southeast broke away from the country and formed the Republic of Biafra. Fighting lasted about three years.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 510 killings in 2011 alone, according to an Associated Press count.
Authorities said gunmen attacked a military vehicle Sunday afternoon in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, killing three civilians. Police said another attack on a tea shop Saturday night in Biu in Borno state killed three people.