Again in Nigeria: suspected Islamists kill outspoken cleric.
(AFP) – Suspected radical Islamists on Saturday shot dead an outspoken cleric in the latest of a series of killings in Nigeria blamed on a sect that staged a bloody uprising last year, police said.
Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead Bashir Kashara at his house in the heart of Maiduguri city, a police officer and his religious colleague told AFP. He was killed along with one of his students.
The police officer who asked not to be named, said Kashara was slain at his home Saturday morning. Kashara’s fellow clergyman, Malam Babagoni said he was killed while giving a theology class to a student.
“Investigations have commenced, but from the modus operandi of the attack, the most likely suspects is the Boko Haram,” said the police officer.
Boko Haram, self-styled Nigerian Taliban, launched an insurrection in Maiduguri in northern Nigeria last year.
Kashara, a well-known wahabi cleric in Maiduguri, ran a weekly Islamic programme on Borno state-run radio in which he criticised Boko Haram’s ideologies, especially one that tags Western education as a sin.
Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin” in the local Hausa dialect.
Babagoni, who had been with the cleric earlier in the morning, said he returned two hours later following a distress call and “I found him and the disciple in a pool of blood”.
He said eyewitnesses said they were killed by two men in suits who arrived on a motor bike. “The fact that he has been the most outspoken critic of Boko Haram among all the clerics in the city makes everybody suspect that Boko Haram were behind the killing,” said Adamu Dahiru, a resident.
At least 21 people, including a top politician, have been killed by suspected sect gangs, in murders staged by motorcycle-riding gunmen mostly in Maiduguri.
Last year’s Boko Haram uprising began with attacks on police posts, and police have been among the victims of recent killings by gunmen in northern Nigeria.
Suspected sect members also used machine guns and homemade bombs to attack a prison in Bauchi last month, freeing more than 700 prisoners. Around 100 alleged Boko Haram members were among those who escaped.
The sect had fought for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria, whose 150 million population is divided roughly in half between Christians and Muslims.
The attacks come ahead of presidential elections early next year and have been an ominous sign in a country where ballots have often been tainted by violence.