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Nigeria mosque attack kills 20

Armed assailants have gunned down a group of Muslim worshippers outside a mosque in Nigeria. Authorities have said the perpetrators were part of a criminal gang.

The gunmen shot dead at least 20 worshippers in the remote village of Dogo Dawa in Kaduna state as they left prayers on Sunday, according to Nigerian authorities.

Kaduna, some 100 kilometers north of the capital, Abuja, is located in Nigeria's "Middle Belt," where the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south meet. The region has been plagued by interreligious violence, much of it due to a bloody insurgency led by the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sacrilege," usually attacks representatives of the government and Christians. The group has also been known to target Muslims who do not adhere to its strict interpretation of Islam.

'Clear case of armed robbery'

But Lieutenant Colonel Sani Usman, a military spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the mosque massacre was a "clear case of armed robbery." Usman said the perpetrators had tried to rob some residents of Dogo Dawa earlier in the week, but were repelled. Sunday's attack was an act of revenge on the village, the military spokesman said.

Abdullahi Muhammad, a traditional local ruler and councilor for the Birnin Gwari administrative area, said that the attack was the work of a criminal gang. .

"We are suspecting a reprisal attack by gangs of armed robbers who lost some of their members after a recent exchange of fire with the villagers and the vigilantes," Muhammad told Reuters news agency.

"The village had been terrorized by an armed group operating from camps in the forest," he continued. "These armed men mostly attack villages and motorists along the busy Kaduna-to-Lagos highway."

slk/rc (Reuters, AFP)