42 dead in Nigeria fighting

KANO: Forty-two people were killed Sunday in clashes between police and members of a radical sect in Nigeria that is inspired by the Taliban in Afghanistan, a hospital source said.

"We have received a total of 42 bodies," Awwal Isa, a nurse at Bauchi Specialist Hospital in the northern city of Bauchi where the violence took place, told AFP by telephone.

They were victims of "fighting between security personnel and members of the Taliban," he said, alluding to the sect founded in Nigeria in 2004 with a mission to set up a strict Islamic state in Nigeria.

The two sides exchanged gunfire after a failed dawn attack on a police station in the neighbourhood of Dutsen Tenshin.

"Our men succeeded in repelling the dawn attack by the Taliban," Bauchi police spokesman Mohammed Barau told AFP by telephone, adding that it appeared the assailants "wanted to steal weapons from the police station".

"We have launched a manhunt for other members of the group that have fled," Barau added.

Local journalists who went to Bauchi Specialist Hospital told AFP earlier on Sunday they had counted nine bodies there -- six Taliban militants and three local inhabitants.

Isa said that, initially, the hospital received nine bodies, followed by another 33. He added that one of the dead was a soldier.

The Nigerian Taliban debuted in 2004 when it set up a base -- dubbed Afghanistan -- in Kanamma village in northern Yobe state, on the border with Niger, from where it attacked police outposts and killed police officers.

Its membership is mainly drawn from university dropouts.

The north of Nigeria is majority Muslim, although large Christian minorities have settled in the main towns. Since 1999 and the return of a civilian regime, 12 northern states have introduced Islamic Sharia law.

Religious clashes between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi state killed five people in February.

A Muslim mob went on rampage, attacking Christians and burning churches in reprisals over the burning of two mosques, which Muslims blamed on Christians, they said.

More than 700 people died last November in Jos, capital of Plateau state, when a political feud over a local election degenerated into bloody confrontation between Muslims and Christians.