GUNMEN suspected to be members of the terrorist Islamic sect, Boko Haram, on Thursday killed four policemen and injured another two near the house of the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar.
In Minna, Niger State, some gunmen suspected to be members of the sect similarly killed two policemen.
Also, a bomb suspected to have been planted by the sect was discovered at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located on Church Road, Minna, by members who attended the Ash Wednesday mass.
On Christmas Day last year, Boko Haram bombs killed 44 parishioners at the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, also in Niger State.
The incidents coincided with a comment by a senior United States diplomat that the country would not provide military assistance to Nigeria in its battle against Boko Haram.
The US ambassador, Terence McCulley, who spoke to the Associated Press, said he would rather encourage the Federal Government to reach out to residents in the affected northern states while using security forces to target and apprehend terrorists.
The Kano attack took place during the morning rush hours along BUK Road.
Eyewitnesses’ accounts indicated that the gunmen, riding on four motorcycles, opened fire on the policemen said to be guarding the residence of the IG and killed four of them.
A statement by the spokesman for the Kano State police command, Magaji Majiya, confirmed the incident but said only two policemen were killed in the attack.
Majiya said 15 suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack.
The statement reads, “Today Thursday 23rd February, 2012 at about 0830hrs along BUK Road by Island after Gidan Murtala, unknown gunmen on four motorcycles attacked our policemen on foot patrol.
“As a result of the attack two died on the spot while two were injured and are now receiving treatment at the hospital.”
The statement adds that the area of the attack has been ‘thoroughly combed” and that investigation into the incident has commenced.
Our correspondent in Kano reports that shortly after the attack, surveillance helicopters hovered above the area.
In the Minna incident, THE PUNCH learnt that the gunmen, also riding on motorcycles, opened fire at two policemen at a point near a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation mega station.
Two of the policemen reportedly died on the spot while another sustained injury and was rushed to an undisclosed nearby hospital.
The injured officer, eyewitnesses said, only escaped death by a whisker because he had gone to buy sachet water when the attack occurred.
“Two men who were on a motorbike on sighting the policemen shot directly at them and killed two of them instantly. They carted away their rifles but other policemen ran to safety. One policeman who was coming back from where he went to buy sachet water was injured,” an eyewitness told our correspondent on Thursday.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Richard Oguche, confirmed the attack and said the police were on the trail of the killers. He added that the attackers were not members of Boko Haram but members of an aggrieved group out to avenge the detention of their members arrested after the prison break in Kogi State.
The explosives found at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Suleja were reportedly kept inside a Ghana-Must-Go bag and hidden in a corner of the church premises. The bag was said to have been discovered by a member of the church who then raised the alarm.
Residents of Church Road told our correspondent on Thursday that the discovery of the explosives caused a stir in the area and it took the police anti-bomb squad searching the area to douse the fear of the residents.
Meanwhile, Terrence said the US was also considering opening a consulate in Kano to improve the country’s image among a people still suspicious about Western influence. Boko Haram means ‘Western education is evil.’
However, he was unequivocal when asked in the interview with the Associated Press whether U.S. troops should be deployed in Nigeria.
“That’s not on the table. No, absolutely not,” McCulley said.
The ambassador said the issue of Boko Haram was of great concern to the US.
“It’s of a great concern to us. We’ve seen an increase in sophistication, we’ve seen increased lethality. We saw at least a part of the group has decided it’s in their interest to attack the international community” he said.
McCulley said the U.S. was already working with the Nigerian police to help them learn how to carry out forensic investigations, while a bomb expert from the FBI has been working with authorities on how to detect explosives planted by the group before they detonate.
He said, “The U.S. also would be open to training Nigeria’s military in counter-terror techniques, though the country hasn’t asked for that assistance.
“It’s not going to be solved exclusively by treating it as a security issue. It needs a holistic solution.
“Government needs clearly to have a targeted approach on security that targets the bad guys, that targets perpetuators of these horrible attacks and doesn’t injure innocent civilians or damage property.”