- A gunman suspected of belonging to an Islamist sect has killed a radical Muslim cleric in northeastern Nigeria where the sect has been blamed for series of killings, residents said Tuesday.

Ibrahim Birkuti was shot by a motorcycle-riding gunman thought to be a member of Boko Haram sect outside his house in the town of Biu, 200km south of Maiduguri where the sect has carried out most of its attacks in recent months.

Birkuti, a Wahabbi cleric and an imam of a mosque in the town has been critical of Boko Haram ideology especially its rejection of Western education and its resort to violence, his neighbours said.

“A gunman riding a motorcycle stopped outside the house and brought out a gun from under his shirt and shot him twice at close range before fleeing,” Babagana Hanafi, Birkuti's neighbour for 15 years told AFP.

“The cleric slumped and died before he could be taken to hospital,” Hanafi said on the phone from Biu.

Local people had been concerned about Birkuti's safety over his criticism of the sect which has targeted soldiers and suspected informants, another resident Mala Bukar said.

A builder was, meantime shot and killed outside his house at the weekend by attackers on motorcycle shortly after returning from the army barracks in the town where he was contracted for some renovation works, his friend Aliyu Dini said.

Husseini Mohammed was killed moments after he was dropped off by a military van, Dini said, adding that the attackers suspected to be sect members mistook him for an a military informant.

Police and military officials in Maiduguri were not available for comments as they refused to answer repeated phone calls. - Sapa-AFP