World

Probe into Nigerian sect leader's death demanded

An investigation should be conducted into the death of the leader of a Nigerian Islamist sect, an international human rights group demanded on Friday.

An investigation should be conducted into the death of the leader of a Nigerian Islamist sect, an international human rights group demanded on Friday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called for the investigation, saying reports that Mohammed Yusuf was shot and killed hours after his arrest were "extremely worrying."

"The Nigerian authorities must act immediately to investigate and hold to account all those responsible for this unlawful killing and any others associated with the recent violence in northern Nigeria," said Corinne Dufka, the group's senior West Africa researcher.

Nigeria's national police claimed victory Friday over Boko Haram, the group blamed for five days of violence in northern Nigeria that has claimed about 150, on Friday.

Yusuf, 39, was the leader of the group and was arrested Thursday night after a manhunt for members of the sect.

There have been conflicting reports from police regarding whether Yusuf died while in custody or during a shootout while he was trying to escape.

Human Rights Watch has documented allegations of previous extra-judicial executions by Nigeria's police and security forces.

Boko Haram fighters have attacked police stations, churches, prisons and government buildings in a wave of violence that began Sunday in Borno state and quickly spread to three other states in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.

"This group operates under a charismatic leader. They will no more have any inspiration," national police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu told The Associated Press. "The leader who they thought was invincible and immortal has now been proved otherwise."

Calm sets in for now

Witnesses said most of the northern city of Maidugiri was calm on Friday morning, but analysts said that it was unclear if that condition would hold.

Nnamdi K. Obasi, a Nigerian analyst with the International Crisis Group, said he seemed to have several hundred core followers in the capitals of 12 northern states and a few thousand supporters in each urban centre.

Yusuf's followers believe the greatest honour is to die fighting for their cause, Obasi said.

Yusuf's death could bring an end to violence in northern Nigeria or inspire revenge attacks, according to experts.

Boko Haram means "Western education is sin" in the local Hausa dialect. The militants, armed with homemade hunting rifles, bows and arrows and scimitars, are seeking to impose Taliban-style rule — based on strict interpretations of Islamic law — in Nigeria.

With files from The Associated Press