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Town attacked in north Nigeria with gunmen bombing police station, bank, residents say
BAUCHI, Nigeria (AP) ' Gunmen armed with machine guns and explosives attacked a town Sunday in northern Nigeria, bombing a local police station and raiding at least one bank, witnesses said.
The assault happened early Sunday morning in the town of Azare, in Nigeria's Bauchi state, residents Ibrahim Azare and Yakub Isa told The Associated Press. The gunfire lasted several hours as those in the city hid inside their homes.
It was unclear if anyone was injured, but the witnesses said the damage in the town was extensive. A Nigerian Red Cross official said he was heading to the town to examine damage, but had no information about casualties.
Police officials in Bauchi state and Nigeria's capital Abuja did not answer calls for comment Sunday.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, it mirrored recent mass attacks in northeastern Nigeria claimed by a radical Muslim sect known as Boko Haram.
The group has launched a series of attacks against Nigeria's weak central government over the last year in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across the nation of more than 160 million people.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a Nov. 4 attack on Damaturu, Yobe state's capital, that killed more than 100 people. The group also claimed the Aug. 24 suicide car bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Nigeria's capital that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.
Little is known about the sources of Boko Haram's support, though its members recently began carrying out a wave of bank robberies in the north. Police stations have also been bombed and officers killed.
Boko Haram has splintered into three factions, with one wing increasingly willing to kill as it maintains contact with terror groups in North Africa and Somalia, diplomats and security sources say.
The sect is responsible for more than 380 killings in Nigeria this year alone, according to an AP count.
Musa reported from Maiduguri, Nigeria. Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell contributed to this story from Lagos, Nigeria.