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Nigeria Imposes Curfew in Northern City After Deadly Bomb Attacks

Smoke rises from the police headquarters as people run for safety in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 20, 2012.

Smoke rises from the police headquarters as people run for safety in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 20, 2012.

A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano, after a coordinated series of bomb attacks. Nigerian police say at least seven people have been killed in the bombings that targeted police and government offices in the northern city.

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A suicide bomber set off a huge explosion at the office of Kano's Inspector General of Police at about 5:00 p.m. local time Friday. Within minutes, blasts could be heard at several other locations throughout the city. Most of the targets appeared to be police stations.

Witnesses described chaos in the streets as people fled in panic, by foot and in vehicles, with sirens blaring and gunshots echoing around them. Reporter Salusi Radiu of VOA's Hausa Service says he counted more than two dozen blasts over a 90-minute period.

"It was just a rough estimate, but it was estimated almost 30, about 30 exploded at different police stations. At some places it was just the bomb that exploded, in other places there were gunshots before the bomb," Radiu said.

Officials estimated scores of people were killed, including the suicide bomber and other attackers who died in gun battles with police. Witnesses said several police officers and a journalist also perished, but Kano's emergency coordinator, Abubakar Jibril, told VOA a full casualty count would be delayed because of a city-wide curfew.

"In fact, nobody can tell you the casualties because they are from different points. We will have to go to different hospitals around before we gather the number of casualties," Jibril said.

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Muslim extremist sect Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means, “Christian education is sacrilegious.” A spokesman for the group telephoned journalists to say the bombings were in retaliation for the arrest of several Boko Haram members in Kano.

Boko Haram was also blamed for a bomb that went off outside a Catholic church near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day. Nearly 40 people were killed in that attack.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had declared a state of emergency in several northern regions after the Christmas Day attacks, but Kano had been relatively free of violence, and was not included in the emergency area.