Police: 12 killed in attack on north Nigeria city

By SAADATU MOHAMMED | February 25, 2012 | 5:35 AM EST

GOMBE, Nigeria (AP) — An attack on a police station in northeastern Nigeria killed at least 12 people and wounded five others, authorities said Saturday, amid a growing wave of attacks by a radical Islamist sect.

The assault on the capital of Gombe state targeted a divisional police headquarters and a federal prison there Friday night, local police commissioner Orubebe Ghandi Ebikeme said. Explosions could be heard across the city as sporadic gunfire continued into the night.

The attack on the prison did not free any prisoners, Ebikeme said. Kayode Odeyemi, a spokesman for the Nigerian Prisons Service, said Saturday he had heard of the attack but had no details.

It remained difficult Saturday to independently verify what had happened in Gombe, as the local government imposed a 24-hour curfew, forcing already frightened residents to remain indoors. Residents around the divisional police station said the area took heavy damage during the fighting.

Authorities made no arrests and said that they had no immediate suspects. Suspicion, however, immediately fell on the radical sect known as Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is carrying out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law and to avenge Muslim killings in Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

The sect has been blamed for killing at least 310 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. It also has carried out attacks in Gombe state before. In January, suspected sect gunmen attacked a church in the city during a prayer service, killing at least five people and wounding others.