Islamists could attack universities - Police
Nigeria - An Islamist sect responsible for a series of deadly bombings in Nigeria in recent months could target universities in the south of Africa's most populous nation, police said on Wednesday.
Boko Haram, whose name translates from the northern Hausa language as “Western education is sinful”, has claimed responsibility for bombings at police headquarters in Abuja in June and an attack on the United Nations building there last month, which killed 23 people.
The sect, which wants sharia law more widely applied in Nigeria, has also been blamed for almost daily shootings and attacks with homemade bombs in the far northeast, where the group was formed.
Boko Haram's ambitions have grown rapidly and there is speculation about where another strike might occur. Security has been boosted around all major government buildings, large hotels and many Western embassies.
“We got intelligence reports that Boko Haram could target not only the University of Benin but other universities across the country so we are not taking anything for granted,” Peter Ogboi, police spokesman for southern Edo state, told Reuters.
“The police are doing everything possible to secure not only universities but other public places and we have assured people not to be afraid.”
It is difficult to verify threats by Boko Haram because the group has an undefined command structure and a number of people who claim to speak on its behalf.
Nigeria's population of more than 140 million is roughly split between a mostly Muslim north and a largely Christian south. The sect is not supported by the majority of Nigeria's Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Students at universities in the south said warnings were posted on notice boards about being vigilant over security and police checks had increased in recent days.
“Security has been tight around the University of Ibadan since Monday following rumours that Boko Haram is planning to bomb an institution. The police have been stopping and searching everyone who goes in and out of the university,” said student Henri Okonkwo.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said the heightened security risks are deterring foreign investors from putting funds into Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest economy.
Eight suspected members of the sect appeared in court on Tuesday charged with carrying out a series of other bombings and shootings between March and July this year that killed a total of 25 people.
The defendants could face death by hanging if they are found guilty. - Reuters