Image: People watch as smoke rises from the police headquarters after it was hit by a blast in Nigeria's northern city of Kano
Reuters
Smoke rises from police headquarters after it was hit by a blast in Nigeria's northern city of Kano on Friday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/21/2012 10:57:04 AM ET 2012-01-21T15:57:04

Coordinated attacks claimed by a radical Islamist sect left at least 143 people dead in Nigeria's second-largest city, a hospital official said Saturday.

The official said Saturday that the figure represented those in a mortuary at Kano's largest hospital, as well as those whose bodies have already been claimed by families for burial.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The sect known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks that started Friday in the city of more than 9 million people.

Soldiers and police officers swarmed streets Saturday in Kano, a city that remains an important political and religious hub in Nigeria's Muslim north. But their effectiveness remains in question, as the uniformed bodies of many of their colleagues lay in the overflowing mortuary of Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital, Kano's largest hospital.

The attacks started Friday afternoon after Muslim prayers and as shops closed for the weekend. A mortuary attendant, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said the facility had 126 bodies.

Other bodies likely were at other clinics and hospitals in the city.

"There were bombs and then gunmen were attacking police and police came back with attacks," a senior local government security source told Reuters. Hospital staff said bodies were still arriving at morgues in Kano.

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In a statement issued late Friday, federal police spokesman Olusola Amore said attackers targeted five police buildings, two immigration offices and the local headquarters of the State Security Service, Nigeria's secret police.

At least 50 injured
Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, said volunteers offered first aid to the wounded, and evacuated those seriously injured to local hospitals. He said officials continued to collect corpses scattered around sites of the attacks. A survey of two hospitals by the Red Cross showed at least 50 people were injured in Friday's attack, he said.

State authorities declared a 24-hour curfew late Friday as residents hid inside their homes amid the fighting.

A Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message to journalists. He said the attack came as the state government refused to release Boko Haram members held by the police.

Boko Haram 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 AP count.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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