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Northern Nigerian City Calm After Week of Unrest


Government and health officials in the Northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri cleared bodies from streets Saturday as calm returned after a week of unrest that left hundreds of people dead.

Police officials are continuing to search for members of the Islamic militant sect known as Boko Haram who are blamed for violence that erupted last Sunday after security forces arrested some of the group's leaders. For five days, the militants attacked police stations, churches and government buildings.

Security forces retaliated later in the week, killing at least 100 Boko Haram members. Officials say thousands of people were displaced by the fighting.

On Thursday, the group's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by police. Officials insist he died in a gun battle near his headquarters in Maiduguri, but international human rights groups have called for an investigation into the killing.

Police sharply rejected any suggestion of an extrajudicial killing.

Some reports indicate as many as 600 people died in the unrest.

Police say former Borno State commissioner for Religious Affairs Alhaji Buji Fai, who is a Boko Haram supporter, was also killed in the violence. How he died is unclear.

Police also have rejected reports that Boko Haram is affiliated with international terrorist groups. A police official, Naralyn Ogar, said that despite calling themselves "the Nigerian Taliban," Boko Haram is a group of religious fundamentalists who have no affiliation with outside organizations.

Boko Haram followers want northern Nigeria to adopt a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Boko Haram, loosely translated, means "Western education is sinful." Nigerian officials have called the group the "Taliban," a reference to militants based in Afghanistan.

A dozen of Nigeria's 36 states have introduced strict Islamic law in the past decade. The country is roughly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with Islam predominant in the northern part of the country. Periodic clashes between the two populations have left thousands of people dead in recent years.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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