MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Multiple blasts have rocked a city in Nigeria's restive northeast where a radical Muslim sect is accused of a rash of targeted killings, authorities said Thursday.
A spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said that the three blasts appear to have targeted police and military property between Wednesday night and Thursday morning in the city of Maiduguri in Borno state.
Yushau Shuaib said the agency was mobilizing response workers to come to the aid of people in three areas of the city. He said people were injured, but he did not say how many or if anyone had died.
"The children were crying and we did not know where to go," said Ibrahim Idrissa whose home was shaken by a blast that destroyed a patrol vehicle on Lagos Street at about 7 a.m.
The police were not immediately available for comment but had blamed a radical sect locally known as Boko Haram for another blast last Saturday that killed two bystanders at a Maiduguri bus stop.
Boko Haram members have targeted police and clerics in a string of killings over the last year. They have also attacked churches and engineered a massive prison break.
Routine attacks mean that residents are subjected to searches at dozens of checkpoints. Motorcycle riders and car drivers have to come out of their vehicles, along with their passengers, and walk with their arms raised to prove weapons aren't hidden in their clothing several times a day.
But, the situation is deteriorating despite strict measures taken by security forces to stop the killings.
"The attacks in Maiduguri have gotten worse after the elections," Borno state police chief Mohammed Abubakar told The Associated Press recently. "Many residents and many of our men have been killed."
An explosion at a hotel killed three people and wounded 14 others in northeastern Nigeria days before an election that gave Borno State a new governor last month.
Governor-elect Kashim Shettima promptly reached out to the sect members to calm tensions by offering an amnesty, but a man claiming to speak for Boko Haram told the BBC recently that Boko Haram was rejecting the offer because of its ideological differences with the state government.
"First, we do not believe in the Nigerian constitution and, secondly, we do not believe in democracy but only in the laws of Allah," said Abu Dardam in the local Hausa language.
Boko Haram, whose name in Hausa means "Western education is sacrilege," has campaigned for the implementation of strict Shariah law.
Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. A dozen states across Nigeria's north already have Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.
Boko Haram was thought to be vanquished in 2009 after Nigeria's military crushed its mosque into concrete shards, and its leader was arrested and died in police custody. But now, Maiduguri and surrounding villages in Borno state again live in fear.
Authorities have said that the lack of cooperation from residents has hindered security operations in the area.
"It is very dangerous, it is a threat to our lives to tell the police and soldiers where these Boko Haram men are. They are living among us. They are everywhere, in the mosques, in the markets,... They are monitoring the people who report them," said 35-year-old Abdullahi Saidu.
Associated Press writer Yinka Ibukun contributed to this report from Lagos, Nigeria.