Suspected Nigeria Islamists kill five in north

Maiduguri, Nigeria - Gunmen shot dead five people in their homes in two northern Nigerian cities on Monday, security forces said, the latest in a string of deadly attacks by suspected members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.

"Two people have been shot dead today by Boko Haram in Maiduguri," the operations officer for the remote northeastern city, Victor Ebheleme, told Reuters.

"The area in which the attack took place has been cordoned off and the killers have been trailed, but no arrests have been made yet."

Three Chadians were also killed in the volatile city of Damaturu, police commissioner for the city and its surrounding state of Yobe, Lawal Tanko, said.

Boko Haram wants sharia law applied across Nigeria, which is roughly split equally between Christians and Muslims. The group's low level insurgency has intensified in the past year, becoming a major security headache for President Goodluck Jonathan.

Jonathan declared a state of emergency in several regions in Nigeria on December 31, closing Nigeria's borders with Niger, Cameroon and Chad, after a spate of Christmas Day attacks on churches and other targets.

Gunmen shot dead two Chadians on Sunday, as well, authorities said.

Maiduguri is Boko Haram's heartland and Damaturu is increasingly a focal point for its militant activity.

Damaturu was the scene of fierce gunbattle between the military and Boko Haram on December 24, when more than 50 people were killed, mostly sect members.