The Nigerian president has sacked his main security advisor and defense minister as concern grows about growing unrest. A spate of recent militant Islamist bombings against churches has led to Christian reprisals.
National Security Adviser Andrew Owoye Azazi and Minister of Defense Bello Mohammed were "sacked," according to a statement by presidential spokesman Ruben Abati.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan replaced Azazi with retired colonel Sambo Dasuki, the spokesman said, while the ministerial replacement was to be allowed later. Dasuki is cousin to the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria's highest Muslim spiritual figure.
A deadly insurgency from Islamist group Boko Haram began earlier this year with criticism of Jonathan intensifying this week after three suicide bombings at churches sparked reprisals from Christian mobs. Mosques were burnt and dozens of Muslims killed in the sectarian violence.
At least 106 people are believed to have died in the violence, which began on Sunday with suicide attacks at three churches that killed at least 16.
Meeting ahead of dismissals
The decision to sack such leading figures in the battle with Boko Haram followed a meeting of Jonathan with his security team on Friday, hours after returning to Nigeria from the UN environmental summit in Rio.
The president's attendance at the summit itself drew deep criticism at such a time of spiraling unrest.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and its producer of oil, is roughly divided into a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Boko Haram is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives since mid-2009. On Friday, the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the group could be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
The deadliest attack yet occurred in the city of Kano in January. At least 185 people died in a series of coordinated bombings and shootings.
rc/ai (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)