UK, US warn of possible Easter attack in Nigeria
LAGOS, Nigeria—Nigeria is facing a "high risk" of a terrorist attack over the Easter holiday, the United Kingdom warned its citizens Thursday, as the U.S. issued a similar warning to those living in the West African nation that sees near-daily attacks by a radical Islamist sect.
The U.K. Foreign Office and the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria's capital Abuja issued the updated travel warnings Thursday, noting that a radical Islamist sect in Nigeria known as Boko Haram carried out attacks on Christmas Day. A sect-claimed car bombing at a Catholic church outside of Abuja that day killed at least 44 people.
The U.K. also advised its citizens to avoid travel to Borno, Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Yobe states, part of Nigeria's Muslim north.
"There is a high threat of terrorist attack during religious festivals," the U.K. warning read.
The U.S. warning noted the near-daily attacks now hitting Nigeria and that there have been "continued threats, including several that mention U.S. interests." The warning also noted that personnel from the U.S. Embassy no longer travel to northern Nigeria, a rule put in place after a Boko Haram attack on the city of Kano in January killed at least 185 people.
"The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor closely the ongoing threats posed by Nigerian extremist and criminal groups, and their stated intentions to carry out attacks against the Nigerian government and western interests and targets in Nigeria," the message read.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, is waging an increasingly bloody fight with security agencies and the public. More than 380 people have been killed in violence blamed on the sect this year alone, according to an AP count.
The sect, employing suicide bombers and assault-rifle shootouts, has attacked both Christians and Muslims, as well as the United Nations' headquarters in Nigeria.
The sect has rejected efforts to begin indirect peace talks with Nigeria's government. Its demands include the introduction of strict Shariah law across the country, even in Christian areas, and the release of all imprisoned followers.
The sect was blamed for an attack Wednesday on a market in the northeast city of Maiduguri that killed at least seven Christian traders there.
Associated Press writer David Stringer in London contributed to this report.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.