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The World

November 6, 2011

US: Sect bomb attacks possible in Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — After a weekend of violence and fear, U.S. officials warned Sunday that luxury hotels frequented by foreigners and Nigeria's elite may be bombed by a radical Muslim sect as the death toll from attacks in the country's northeast rose to more than 100.

The warning by the U.S. Embassy shows how seriously diplomats take the threat posed by the outlawed Islamist group known locally as Boko Haram, which previously bombed the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Abuja, killing 24.

The unusually specific warning from the U.S. Embassy identified possible targets in Abuja as the Hilton, Nicon Luxury and Sheraton hotels. With popular restaurants and bars, the hotels draw diplomats, politicians and even reformed oil delta militants.

The embassy said an attack may come as Muslims in the oil-rich nation celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday and that its diplomats and staff had been instructed to avoid those hotels.

Still, Nigerian officials continued to downplay the threat posed by the militants, hoping to reassure Africa's most populous nation that everything remains under control in a country often violently divided by religious and ethnic differences.

"We're all expected to live in peace, but as a nation, we have our own challenges," President Goodluck Jonathan said in a speech televised nationally.

"During this holy period, we still have incidents happening here and there," added Jonathan, a Christian, who appeared wearing a prayer cap and the traditional robes of the country's Muslim north.

U.S. officials offered no other details about how the embassy received the threat information. Deb MacLean, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Abuja, declined to comment Sunday.

It wouldn't be the first time Abuja saw itself targeted by Boko Haram, which has waged an increasingly bloody sectarian fight against Nigeria's weak central government. A suicide bomber claimed by the group attacked the U.N. headquarters in August, while another bomber targeted the federal police headquarters in June.

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