updated 11/12/2007 10:21:42 PM ET 2007-11-13T03:21:42

Security agents arrested several men who allegedly had materials for making explosives, and evidence has linked them to the al-Qaida terror network, a senior security official said Monday.

The suspects, all Nigerians, were arrested in the states of Kano, Kaduna and Yobe, located in the country’s predominantly Muslim north, said Ado Muazu, spokesman for Nigeria’s special state security police.

“Investigations show they have links to the al-Qaida network,” Muazu said, without elaborating or saying exactly how many suspects were detained.

He said the suspects had been on the verge of carrying out attacks when they were detained, and displayed a photograph of materials allegedly seized from the suspects showing four bags of fertilizer, seven sticks of dynamite, a combat rifle and detonators.

Nigeria has not recorded a religiously inspired terror attack but is prone to periodic outbursts of sectarian violence, and its 140 million people are almost evenly split between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

Osama bin Laden is reported in one of his messages to have named oil-rich Nigeria as a country ripe for liberation from Western influence, and the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria periodically issues terror attack warnings.

Muazu said many of those arrested in the north also were connected to a Nigerian Taliban group in northeastern Yobe and Borno states that became prominent in 2004 after a clash with security forces.

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