The Nigerian president has declared a state of emergency after a series of deadly attacks. An Islamist sect claimed responsibility for Christmas Day attacks on churches, raising fears of sectarian strife.
The president of Nigeria has declared a state of emergency in parts of the country that have been hit by attacks by a radical Islamist group. In a nationally televised address, President Goodluck Johnathan also announced that he had ordered the closure of the country's border with neighboring countries.
"While the search for lasting solutions is ongoing, it has become imperative to take some decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country especially within the affected communities," the president said.
The president had come under increasing pressure to act after a series of bomb attacks on churches on Christmas Day, which killed more than 40 people and injured dozens of others. Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks. The state of emergency applies to parts of Niger State, Plateau, Borno and Yobe that are believed to have become infiltrated by Boko Haram. There are fears that the group is trying to spark sectarian strife between Nigeria's Muslim and Christian communities.
Out of reach
In his speech, the president also explained his decision to shut down part of the country's border, saying that "terrorists have taken advantage of the present situation to strike at targets in Nigeria and retreat beyond the reach of our law enforcement personnel."
Boko Haram has been blamed for many attacks in the past, most of which have occurred in the northeast of the country. However it also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Abuja, which killed more than 20 people last August.
Safety fears have caused some religious festivals to mark the new year to be cancelled, although the authorities said they had stepped up security measures, particularly around places of worship.
Deadly clashes in southeast
Meanwhile, at least 50 people were reported to have been killed in clashes in the southeastern state of Ebonyi.
"Upwards of 50 people were killed when a group of people from Ezza community attacked residents of neighbouring Ezilo community over a land dispute," a government spokesman told the AFP news agency.
These clashes were not linked to Boko Haram but are said to have been related to a land dispute that two groups have been involved in for a number of years
Author: Chuck Penfold (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer