Nigeria's secret police, the State Security Service, says it is investigating a group with links to al Qaida, and responsible for recent violence in northern areas of the country. Gilbert da Costa has more in this report from Abuja.

Nigerian State Security Service spokesman Ado Muazu told VOA the suspects were arrested following surveillance during investigation into recent attacks in parts of northern Nigeria.

"The service is investigating that group. We arrested some people across three states of Nigeria; Kano, Kaduna and Yobe," said Muazu. "We had been on their trail, because we believe they have links to Taliban and al Qaida, and they were responsible for attacks on police stations and some neighborhoods in parts of the country."

The suspects have been described as Islamic militants and some explosives were reportedly seized from them.

Security officials declined to disclose how many suspects have been arrested. The U.S. embassy warned in September that Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, faced the prospect of "a terrorist attack," but the West African nation has not suffered any major attack in the style of al Qaida.

But there is a worry among Western diplomats that Nigeria could be a target for militant Islamists. The chief Imam of the national mosque in Abuja, Sheik Musa Mohammed, dismissed those suggestions, saying al Qaida enjoys very little support among Nigerian Muslims.

"No Muslim in Nigeria will be part of al Qaida," he said. "And whoever you come across in having a connection with them is not with Muslims. He is doing that on his own and by his own selfishness."

Nigeria is divided between Christians and Muslims. Tensions and religion-inspired clashes are fairly frequent, particularly with the introduction of strict Sharia code by 12 northern states in 2000.