LAGOS (AFP) – The US embassy in Nigeria warned on Wednesday that Islamist group Boko Haram may be planning attacks in the capital Abuja, including against hotels frequented by Westerners.
“The US embassy has received information that Boko Haram may be planning attacks in Abuja, Nigeria, including against hotels frequently visited by Westerners,” an emergency message to US citizens on its website said.
“The US government has no additional information regarding the timing of these possible attacks. The Nigerian government is aware of the threat and is actively implementing security measures.”
It gave no further information on the threats.
A police spokesman told AFP “we are not aware of any special threat of attacks by Boko Haram or any individual or group.”
“However, police are ever ready and prepared to deal with any situation and security threat to Nigerians and foreigners living in Abuja or any other parts of the country,” said Olusola Amore.
The US issued a similar message in November that drew harsh criticism in Nigeria. No attacks occurred in Abuja in the wake of the November warning.
A US diplomat at the time however said the warning was based on specific and credible information, adding that the embassy had no choice but to warn American citizens.
Boko Haram has carried out scores of attacks, mainly in Nigeria’s predominately Muslim north, that have killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009.
It claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja which claimed at least 25 lives.
The group’s deadliest attack yet occurred in the northern city of Kano in January, when coordinated bombings and shootings left at least 185 people dead.
Despite heavy-handed raids and a number of high-profile arrests, Nigerian authorities have appeared unable to stop the attacks.
An attempt to hold indirect talks between Boko Haram and the government in March collapsed after a mediator quit over leaks to the media and the Islamists said they could not trust government officials.
Authorities blamed the deaths of a British and an Italian hostage in northwestern Nigeria in March on a faction of Boko Haram. A spokesman for what is believed to be the main branch of the group however denied any involvement.
US Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley recently urged Nigeria to focus on development in its impoverished north as well as security to bring an end to an onslaught of deadly attacks blamed on Boko Haram.
Analysts say poverty and frustration in the north have pushed young people toward extremism.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer with some 160 million people, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
The oil-producing south is wealthier and more educated, stoking resentment in the north.