MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — A suicide bomber blew up his car outside police headquarters Friday in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killing himself and six other people and wounding 20, the Nigerian Red Cross said amid warnings that the situation in the city is worsening.
The blast occurred Friday around noon in front of the headquarters' gate after officers prevented the bomber from entering the compound, said Borno State police chief Bala Hassan. Hassan said that only one policeman and two civilians were killed and six civilians were injured. However, officials have downplayed casualty figures in the past.
Hours earlier, a suspected bomber died when an explosive went off prematurely in another part of the city, said military spokesman Col. Victor Ebhaleme.
A radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has carried out similar attacks in Maiduguri where residents live in constant fear of the next blast or drive-by shooting.
The U.S. Embassy issued a warning late Thursday saying its citizens should not to travel to Maiduguri as diplomats believe "the situation will continue to deteriorate."
Nigeria faces a growing wave of sectarian violence carried out by the sect whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north. Boko Haram has been blamed for killing more than 560 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. The sect's targets have included churches, police stations and other security buildings, often attacked by suicide car bombers across northern Nigeria.
Nigeria's military says at least 16 people were killed Tuesday following an hours-long gunfight in Maiduguri, the sect's spiritual home.
Authorities told journalists that all those killed were "Boko Haram terrorists." However, a man who lives in the neighborhood said civilians had been hit by stray bullets. The man requested anonymity out of fear of angering the sect or authorities.
Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, is divided between a largely Muslim north and Christian south.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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