Police confirm attack on SARS

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ABUJA (AFP) – Gunmen sought to attack a special police unit in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Monday as a police spokesman claimed the assailants were “repelled”.

“I can confirm that there was an attempted attack on the (special anti-robbery squad) this morning which was repelled,” spokesman Frank Mba said, adding that the attackers were “suspected gunmen”.

Local media reported that gunmen attacked the unit. Members of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram have carried out scores of attacks in northern and central Nigeria, including against police stations and sometimes with the intent of freeing jailed members.

It was not immediately clear whether suspected Boko Haram members were being held at the police unit or whether anyone had escaped.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw the main gate outside the police unit heavily guarded, including two armoured vehicles, six police trucks and more than a dozen armed policemen.

It was not immediately possible to determine whether the complex had suffered damage or whether there were casualties.

In June 2011, a suicide bomber sought to attack police headquarters in Abuja. That attack saw a powerful explosion rip through the car park inside the police headquarters compound, leaving at least one police officer dead.

The special anti-robbery unit is in Abuja, but not at the headquarters compound.

Boko Haram has also been blamed for the August 2011 attack on UN headquarters in Abuja which killed at least 25 people as well as the April 2012 bombing of an office for a prominent newspaper in the capital.

While the group has claimed responsibility for scores of attacks, criminal gangs and imitators have also carried out violence under the guise of the group and determining who is responsible is often difficult.

Boko Haram has claimed to be seeking an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

However, its demands have repeatedly shifted and it is believed to include various factions with differing aims.

In addition to attacks targeting symbols of Nigerian authority, it has also bombed a series of churches. Muslims have however often been its victims, including community leaders in Nigeria’s restive northeast, where Boko Haram has been based.

On Friday, Nigeria’s military offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in rewards for information leading to the capture of leaders of Boko Haram in a statement that listed 19 alleged senior members of the group.

The rewards ranged from 50 million naira ($317,000, 245,000 euros) for the suspected leader, Abubakar Shekau, to 10 million naira for various Boko Haram “commanders”.

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