Six others died in the attack, including a 12-year-old boy.
The violence came just weeks ahead of April elections that many worry could ignite simmering tensions between Christians and Muslims — particularly after a prominent Islamic cleric vowed to cleanse the region of Christians.
Slain in the attack was Christian leader Modu Fannami Gubio, the candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party, a conservative party dominant in Nigeria’s Muslim north. The party already controls politics in Borno state.
Respected for his ability to cross religious and cultural lines, Gubio had left Friday prayers in Maiduguri and was walking to his father’s home when the gunmen attacked, said Borno state police commissioner Ibrahim Abubakar.
Gubio tried to run for a sport utility vehicle parked nearby, but was cut down before he reached safety, the police commissioner said.
Two plainclothes police officers assigned to protect him and four bystanders — including a 12-year-old boy — also died in the attack, Abubakar said. Five others were wounded. No arrests have been made.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a radical Muslim sect operating in the area called Boko Haram. Abubakar blamed the group as well in his initial statement to reporters, but offered no evidence to show the group’s involvement.
Boko Haram means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language. The group has attacked churches and engineered a massive prison break in recent months. The group was thought to have been crushed in 2009, when Nigeria’s military leveled its mosque.
Suspected Boko Haram members have used motorcycle-riding gunmen to attack soldiers and police manning checkpoints throughout Borno state, as well as those who publicly oppose the group.
Meanwhile, as many as 13 people died after gunmen attacked four villages near Jos, a flash point of violence between Christians and Muslims. The attackers targeted Christian neighborhoods.
“The attacks were carried out in a number of villages simultaneously,” said Fom Dakwak, a local government official.
Will you pray with us for Nigeria?
Pray those who suffer tremendous physical pain and trials will be strengthened and delivered by the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Ask the Lord to equip those in authority to protect Christians from further attacks.
Pray He will heal and minister to those who are hurt and grieving. Pray against the enemy’s plans for any further violence.