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Attacks in Nigeria claim new victims as death toll could hit 250

Nine people were killed and two churches damaged in northern Nigeria yesterday in fresh attacks blamed on Islamist separatists, as doctors warned the death toll from earlier multiple bombs could rise to 250.

In Baluchi state, the scene of several sectarian attacks by Islamists in recent weeks, nine people died and 12 were injured during a raid by unknown gunmen.

Bukata Zhyadi, traditional elder of a Christian ethnic group, said the victims had been found at dawn yesterday in the town of Tafawa Balewa.

"We are going around the town checking (for more)," he said. Twelve people were wounded, he said, adding that witnesses blamed the attack on a Muslim ethnic group.

In a separate attack, explosions hit two churches in Baluchi state before dawn, destroying one and causing extensive damage to another, residents said.

Both churches were empty at the time and there were no reports of casualties.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan promised immediate action to find the men who ordered multiple bomb blasts on Friday night in Kano, northern Nigeria's main city.

One hospital official said at least 178 people were killed in the attack.

That death toll could rise to as high as 250, another doctor in Kano said, because many bodies had been taken to other hospitals and outlying clinics.

On Saturday, Islamist separatist group Boko Haram said it carried out the attacks.

The group appears to have changed tactics in recent months to a policy of ethnically cleansing Christians from northern Nigeria.

The president said Boko Haram would "face the full wrath of the law".

However, his government has been unable to stop attacks by the group, and last week admitted that the chief suspect in the Islamists' Christmas Day attacks on a church had escaped from police custody.

There are concerns that Boko Haram may be aiming to provoke civil war in Nigeria, with the intention of splitting the majority Muslim north away from the Christian south.

"They are creating a lot of noise and are employing some terrifying tactics, but I don't think we can say yet that they have the support to pull the country in two," said one Western diplomat in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent