KANO, Nigeria (AP) — Two bombs exploded outside of police stations Friday in the largest city in Nigeria's Muslim north, causing panic in the streets as people fled for their lives.
Police could not be immediately reached for comment, but the bomb blasts bore similarities to other attacks carried out by a radical Islamist sect responsible for hundreds of deaths in recent months.
The first bomb detonated at a regional police headquarters in the city of Kano, causing unknown injuries, said Abubakar Jibril, an official with Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency. A second blast struck a police station in another neighborhood, Jibril said.
Jibril said officials with his agency couldn't reach the scenes of the blasts because they were stopped by security forces.
Police kept Associated Press reporters away from the regional headquarters. An AP reporter could see a plume of smoke also rising from another neighborhood in the city as people began fleeing the area.
Another AP reporter said the explosion was powerful enough to shake his car several miles (kilometers) away.
The explosion occurred as Nigeria faces increasing attacks from a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. The sect has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 510 killings last year alone, according to an Associated Press count.
So far this year, the group, which has warned it will kill Christians living in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north, has been blamed for at least 76 killings, according to an AP count. That has further inflamed religious and ethnic tensions in Nigeria, which has seen ethnic violence kill thousands in recent years.
Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for an August suicide car bombing that targeted the U.N. headquarters in the capital, killing 25 people and wounding more than 100.
In a video released last week, Imam Abubakar Shekau, a Boko Haram leader, said the government could not handle attacks by the group.
Although President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, has declared emergency rule in some regions, the sect is blamed for almost daily attacks.
Jonathan has said he believes the sect has infiltrated security agencies and government offices in the country, though he has offered no evidence to back up the claim.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell and Yinka Ibukun contributed to this report from Lagos, Nigeria.