MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Separate attacks in northeast Nigeria targeting a village and a wedding party killed at least eight people Saturday in a region that remains under near-daily assault by a radical Islamist sect, authorities said.
In Maiduguri, the spiritual home of the sect known as Boko Haram, soldiers raided a wedding being held on behalf of a member of the sect, witnesses said. Boko Haram gunmen guarding the wedding opened fire on the attacking soldiers, witnesses said.
Witnesses who declined to be named out of fear of attracting the military or the sect's anger said they saw both civilians and uniformed soldiers slump to the ground after being shot.
Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a military spokesman, said three civilians were killed and four others were wounded in the attack. Musa said soldiers only began their attack after sect members opened fire on a military unit watching the site.
"The public is advised to avoid (any) wedding ... organized by Boko Haram terrorist group," he said.
Late Friday in Taraba state, police say gunmen wearing military uniforms arrested and shot dead five people in a remote village.
Taraba state police spokesman Ibiang Mbaseki said Saturday that witnesses told police the gunmen claimed to come from Abuja.
The spokesman said the police had no information about a military operation in the area and would continue to investigate the killings.
Killings in rural areas often get blamed on so-called "fake soldiers," attackers who wear military-style camouflage clothing during assaults. It remains easy to buy uniforms off the street in Nigeria.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's largely Muslim north, is blamed for killing more than 480 people — both Christian and Muslim — this year alone in Nigeria, according to an Associated Press count.
Diplomats and military officials say Boko Haram has links with two other al-Qaida-aligned terrorist groups in Africa. Members of the sect also reportedly have been spotted in northern Mali, where Tuareg rebels and hardline Islamists seized control over the past month.
In its most recent attack, the sect claimed a suicide car bombing at the Abuja office of the influential newspaper ThisDay, as well as a bombing at an office the paper shares with other publications in Kaduna. At least seven people were killed in the blasts. A video released Thursday by Boko Haram promised more attacks against the media over what it describes as unfair reporting on the group.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria contributed to this report.