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Arsonists attack telecom towers in north Nigeria

By AFP

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Arsonists set fire to telecom masts in northern Nigeria on Wednesday, in what appeared to be a set of coordinated attacks in the restive region, residents said.

Islamist group Boko Haram -- notorious for shootings and bomb attacks across north and central Nigeria -- has threatened to target phone companies, accusing them of cooperating with the security services.

Residents in the cities of Damaturu, Kano, Potiskum and the town of Bama said late Wednesday that gunmen had torched several phone towers before firing their weapons. No casualties were reported.

Earlier, the military said Boko Haram had carried out a similar attack in the northeastern city of Maiduguri late Tuesday.

In Kano, Nigeria's second city, residents said at least four phone towers were set ablaze in the Sharada industrial area.

"There have been explosions and repeated gunshots in this neighbourhood and the explosions were followed by fires around four telecom masts," one of them, Yusuf Abdullahi, told AFP.

Similar incidents were reported in Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe state.

"Explosions erupted in some parts of the city accompanied by gunshots... The information going around is that the telecom masts were the targets of the explosions," said Potiskum resident Kabiru Muazu.

Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, the military spokesman in northeastern Borno state, told AFP that suspected Boko Haram members had attacked several telecom towers in Maiduguri late Tuesday.

"Some mobile telecommunication masts were vandalised last night in different parts of Maiduguri metropolis by some people we suspect to be members of the Boko Haram sect," Musa said.

Residents said a similar attack happened Wednesday in Bama, a town about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Maiduguri, where Boko Haram is based.

The radical group threatened to attack mobile phone operators after its purported spokesman was arrested in February, reportedly after his phone was tracked by the security services.

Boko Haram is blamed for the deaths of more than 1,400 people since 2010 in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and top oil producer.

The violence has eased in recent weeks and Musa claimed the Islamists were now seeking out softer targets amid a crackdown by the security forces.

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