Nigeria violence: Deadly gun attack on bar in Yobe

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Gunmen in Nigeria have opened fire in a bar in the north of the country, killing eight people including several police officers.

The attack in Yobe state is the latest in a series that officials blame on the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

Earlier, at least five people died when a mosque and Islamic school were set alight in Benin city, in the mainly Christian south.

Muslims have been fleeing the city for the mainly Islamic north.

Religious tensions have been growing as a general strike over rising petrol prices continues to grip the country.

"Suspected Islamic sect members attacked the drinking joint and killed eight people, four of whom were policemen," Yobe state police commissioner Tanko Lawal told Reuters news agency.

Reports said the gunmen fled on a motorcycle after the late-night attack in the town of Potiskum. A seven-year-old child was also among the victims, police said.

Southerners, who are mostly Christians or animists, have recently been the targets of attacks by Boko Haram, which operates in the mainly Muslim north.

Yobe is one of the states where the government has declared a state of emergency following an upsurge in violence by the Islamist group.

'Growing concern'

The shooting followed an attack on a mosque and an Islamic school in the southern city of Benin.

Five people were killed and six injured, a Nigerian Red Cross spokesman told the BBC.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon discussed the increasing sectarian violence with Nigeria's Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru on Tuesday.

The meeting followed the release of a UN report that highlighted "growing concern in the region" about possible links between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in many cities to protest against the doubling of the price of petrol since the beginning of the year.

The removal of a fuel subsidy has caused widespread anger.

Witnesses said Tuesday's protests were bigger than Monday's in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, and in the capital Abuja.

Six people died in the unrest on Monday.

Nigeria: A nation divided

Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the UN. The poverty in the north is in stark contrast to the more developed southern states. While in the oil-rich south-east, the residents of Delta and Akwa Ibom complain that all the wealth they generate flows up the pipeline to Abuja and Lagos.

Nigeria's 160 million people are divided between numerous ethno-linguistic groups and also along religious lines. Broadly, the Hausa-Fulani people based in the north are mostly Muslims. The Yorubas of the south-west are divided between Muslims and Christians, while the Igbos of the south-east and neighbouring groups are mostly Christian or animist. The Middle Belt is home to hundreds of groups with different beliefs, and around Jos there are frequent clashes between Hausa-speaking Muslims and Christian members of the Berom community.

Southern residents tend to have better access to healthcare, as reflected by the greater uptake of vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. Some northern groups have in the past boycotted immunisation programmes, saying they are a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile. This led to a recurrence of polio, but the vaccinations have now resumed.

Female literacy is seen as the key to raising living standards for the next generation. For example, a newborn child is far likelier to survive if its mother is well-educated. In Nigeria we see a stark contrast between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. In some northern states less than 5% of women can read and write, whereas in some Igbo areas more than 90% are literate.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and among the biggest in the world but most of its people subsist on less than $2 a day. The oil is produced in the south-east and some militant groups there want to keep a greater share of the wealth which comes from under their feet. Attacks by militants on oil installations led to a sharp fall in Nigeria's output during the last decade. But in 2010, a government amnesty led thousands of fighters to lay down their weapons.

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