According to local police, Nigerian militants have killed 46 police officers in an ambush in the north central state of Nassarawa.
It has not been confirmed if the attacks were linked to Islamist sect Boko Haram, as Islamist groups usually operate further north than Nassarawa.
“Forty-six police officers were killed about 10 km from Lafia by members of a militia who had ambushed them on their way to an operation to arrest the leader of the militia group,” police spokesman Sergie Ezegam said.
Boko Haram and offshoots such as the al Qaeda-linked group Ansaru, as well as associated criminal networks, are the main threat to stability in Africa’s top energy producer.
Usually, Boko Haram’s attacks occur in its northeast stronghold, possibly indicating that its reach has grown in the last year. Ansaru’s attacks include a siege on a police barracks in the capital Abuja and violence further south.
Ansaru also claimed responsibility for a January attack in the Kogi state on a convoy of Nigerian soldiers en route to deployment with West African forces in Mali. Kogi is south of Abuja and borders Nassarawa.
The situation in Nigeria causes huge concern for western governments becuase Nigerian militants are joining with other jihadist groups in West Africa.
Boko Haram want to carve out an Islamic state in a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
Since 2009, attacks by Boko Haram have killed more than 3,000 people, based on figures from Human Rights Watch.