'Boko Haram' gunmen kill Nigerian Muslim cleric Birkuti

Street scene in Maiduguri
Image caption Motorbikes have been banned at night in Maiduguri in a bid to stop the attacks

A gunman believed to be from the Boko Haram Muslim sect has shot dead a prominent cleric from a rival sect in northern Nigeria.

Ibrahim Birkuti has criticised Boko Haram for killing dozens of security agents and politicians in recent months near the city of Maiduguri.

Like most of the other victims, he was shot dead by a man riding a motorbike, witnesses say.

Hundreds of Boko Haram supporters died during an uprising in 2009.

They attacked police stations in Maiduguri but were defeated and their leader was killed.

The sect campaigns against Western education and is also known locally as the Taliban, after the Afghan group, with which it shares some beliefs.

Mr Birkuti was from the Saudi Arabian-inspired Wahabbi group, which has been gaining ground in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria in recent years.

He had been one of the most prominent clerics to criticise Boko Haram in Borno State, of which Maiduguri is the capital.

A police spokesman told the BBC he was killed outside his house in the town of Biu, some 200km (120 miles) south of Maiduguri.

"A gunman riding a motorcycle stopped outside the house and brought out a gun from under his shirt and shot him twice at close range before fleeing," Babagana Hanafi, Birkuti's neighbour for 15 years told the AFP news agency.

Last week, Boko Haram told the BBC it had carried out a series of bombings after President Goodluck Jonathan's inauguration last week.

A sect spokesman said it was also responsible for killing the brother of the Shehu of Borno, one of Nigeria's most important Islamic leaders.

In Maiduguri, the police have made hundreds of arrests and even banned motorbikes at night but have not been able to stop the violence.

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