, KANO, December 24 – The death toll following violence over the past two days in northern Nigeria has risen sharply from seven to 46, medical sources said on Saturday.
The attacks which saw northern cities rocked by explosions and gunfire were claimed by the Islamist group Boko Haram, according to a purported spokesman, Abul Qaqa, who spoke to AFP.
“We are responsible for the attacks in Maiduguri, Damaturu and Potiskum. We carried out the attacks to avenge the killings of our brothers by the security forces in 2009. We will continue to wage war against the Nigerian state until we abolish the secular system and establish an Islamic state”.
Nineteen bodies were taken to the morgue of a hospital in Damaturu while another 20 were counted at a morgue in Maiduguri after violence broke out in the two cities and in Potiskum, the sources said.
A Damaturu resident on Thursday said it appeared that suspected members of Boko Haram were in the streets shooting and setting off explosions at random.
Residents in Maiduguri said people were fleeing and one of six explosions there had shattered the windows of a mosque in an office complex.
Maiduguri has borne the brunt of the violence attributed to Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for scores of attacks in the north as well as the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja that killed at least 24.
A military task force has been deployed in Maiduguri in a bid to stop the sect, but it has in turn been accused of major abuses, including shooting civilians and burning their homes in the wake of bomb attacks.
Damaturu was hit by coordinated attacks in early November claimed by Boko Haram which left some 150 people dead.
Earlier this week, blasts at a house in Damaturu rented by suspected members of Boko Haram left one dead and several wounded.
Boko Haram launched an uprising in 2009 put down by a brutal military assault which left some 800 dead as well as its mosque and headquarters in Maiduguri in ruins.
It went dormant for about a year before re-emerging in 2010 with a series of assassinations. Bomb blasts have since become frequent and have grown in sophistication.
There has been intense speculation over whether Boko Haram has formed links with outside extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda’s North African branch.
The group is believed to have a number of factions with varying aims.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with some 160 million people, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.