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Bomb Blast Kills At Least 3 in Northern Nigeria Ahead of Vote


A policeman stands guard in Kaduna, Nigeria, April 21, 2011

A policeman stands guard in Kaduna, Nigeria, April 21, 2011

Nigerian police say a bomb blast in northeastern Nigeria has killed at least three people and wounded 14 ahead of state-wide elections. Nigerian police believe the Easter Sunday blast in the city of Maiduguri is the work of the Islamic group Boko Haram, which has been fighting for the past two years to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

In a statement released earlier Sunday, the group defended its attacks on police and religious leaders saying they are wrongly associating themselves with a federal government that the group says is trying to sabotage Islam.

Earlier this year, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for killing a gubernatorial candidate in Borno state.

But these bombings appear unrelated to last week's violence in northern states when supporters of defeated presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari attacked churches, homes and police stations, sparking reprisal attacks by Christians. Mr. Buhari says President Jonathan's election was rigged.

A human rights group, the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, says at least 500 people were killed in that violence.

Nigeria's Emergency Management Agency says the states of Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Niger, and Katsina were the hardest hit. Director-General Mohammed Sani Sidi says his agency is helping more than 21,000 displaced civilians in Kano, nearly 10,000 displaced civilians in Zaria, and people at more than 100 camps for displaced civilians in Kaduna.

"The intervention is continuing. We are not going to stop until we get this relief material across to all the victims that have been affected. We are doing everything possible in collaboration with the Nigerian army who have been very, very active and supportive in providing us with security cover," Sidi said.

With more than 65,000 civilians displaced nationwide, Sidi says the only real answer is finishing this series of elections with peaceful state-wide voting to restore order. "What we are trying to achieve is to make sure that peace is maintained and restored in all these places so that people can go back to their various houses and the continue with their normal lives," Sidi added.

Twenty-six of Nigeria's 36 states are scheduled to hold state-wide elections Tuesday. Voting in Kaduna and Bauchi has been delayed until Thursday. Electoral commission chief Attahiru Jega says he hopes that will allow for the "further cooling of tempers and for the security situation in those states to continue to improve."

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