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U.S. warns of possible terror attack in Nigeria

November 7, 2011 | 10:43 am

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REPORTING FROM NAIROBI, KENYA -- Days after a series of coordinated attacks in northern Nigeria  killed more than 100 people, the U.S. State Department has warned travelers to stay away from three major hotels in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, after learning of a possible new assault.

The warning by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja comes two weeks after the State Department warned of a possible terror strikes in Kenya.

On Monday, Nigerian police said they were hunting members of the shadowy underground movement Boko Haram, which carried out the attacks in the north. The rebel group based in the mainly Muslim region claimed responsibility Friday for suicide bombings and attacks in Damaturu, capital of Yobe state, and Maiduguri, in Borno state.

The group attacked police stations, an army base and churches in Damaturu before launching gun battles against security forces.

"We are going to comb every place in the state until we find and deal with them. Our men are ready," Suleiman Lawal, police commissioner for Yobe state, told Reuters news service.

Most of the northern attacks took place in Yobe.

The U.S. Embassy posted a warning about a possible terrorist strike attack on the Sheraton Hotel, the Transcorp Hilton Hotel and the Nicon Luxury.

The warnings for Nigeria, as well as the earlier statement about Kenya, involve homegrown African insurgents that the U.S. government fears may morph into a pan-African Al Qaeda network capable of terror attacks against its interests.

Boko Haram has been fighting the Nigerian government for several years, launching major attacks on police stations, churches and the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, with the latter assault killing about two dozen people. While the group says it aims to attack Western targets, its main focus so far has been on Nigerian sites in the north.

The warning of attacks in Kenya last month were related to threats from the Al Qaeda-linked Somali rebel group Al Shabab, which vowed last month to unleash suicide bombings in Nairobi after Kenyan forces invaded Somalia to drive Al Shabab out of the region along the nations' shared border.

Both countries have high levels of police corruption and large numbers of young alienated unemployed people, including in Muslim areas.

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-- Robyn Dixon

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Photo: Relatives say a prayer before carrying the body of a Nigerian police officer killed Friday for burial in the northern city of Damaturu. Recent attacks by the underground movement Boko Haram killed more than 100 people. Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP/Getty Images

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