Nigeria prominent Muslim cleric 'assassinated'

Kano, Nigeria - Gunmen suspected to be members of an Islamist sect have shot dead a prominent Muslim cleric in Nigeria's northeast, hit by scores of attacks blamed on the extremists, residents said on Saturday.

A military official said they had received word of the Friday night attack in the town of Gamboru Ngala, near the border with Cameroon, but could not yet comment since a full report had not yet been made.

The cleric, Liman Baana Ngala, was the former chief imam for the town. He was said to have been resting outside his home after breaking his Ramadan fast on Friday night when two motorcycle-riding gunmen arrived.

"One of them approached the cleric who was sitting outside his house and, after a short conversation, he shot him twice before fleeing," said resident Hafiz Ahmad.

Referring to the Islamist sect, he said, "from all indications, it is the usual Boko Haram attack."

Another resident gave a similar account of the shooting. It was unclear why the cleric would have been targeted.

The sect has been blamed for scores of bomb blasts and shootings in Nigeria's northeast. Such attacks have targeted figures of authority, including police, politicians and soldiers, as well as religious and community leaders.

It claims to be fighting to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of some 150 million people roughly divided in half between Christians and Muslims.

Nigeria's government recently inaugurated a committee to look into the violence in the northeast and recommend solutions, including whether to negotiate with the sect.