MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Men riding motorcycles threw bombs into outdoor beer gardens Sunday night in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 25 people in attacks bearing striking similarities to others carried out by a radical Islamic sect in the region, police said.
The bombs exploded in the restive city of Maiduguri, home to the sect known locally as Boko Haram. While the sect did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack late Sunday, the assault bore the hallmarks of the group now waging assassinations and attacks against the Nigerian government.
The bombs exploded around 5 p.m. at several outdoor beer gardens in Maiduguri, which is about 540 miles (870 kilometers) from Nigeria's capital, Abuja. Borno state, where Maiduguri is the capital, is under Muslim Shariah law, but several outdoor beer gardens exist.
Lawal Abdullahi, a spokesman for the federal Nigeria Police Force, said the bombs struck at least three beer parlors in the state.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, wants the implementation of strict Shariah law across Nigeria's north. The group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least two people at the federal police headquarters earlier this month in Abuja.
Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north. A dozen states across Nigeria's north already have Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.
Boko Haram is responsible for a rash of killings which have targeted police officers, soldiers, politicians and clerics in Nigeria's north over the last year — including attacks at local beer parlors. They have also attacked churches and engineered a massive prison break. However, authorities say attacks intensified after April 26 gubernatorial elections kept the same political party in power.
Boko Haram was thought to be vanquished in 2009 after Nigeria's military crushed its mosque into concrete shards, and its leader was arrested and died in police custody. But now, Maiduguri and surrounding villages in Borno state again live in fear.