Lagos: A website purported to belong to an Islamist sect has claimed responsibility for Christmas Eve bombings in central Nigeria that left dozens dead, but police on Tuesday cast doubt on the claim.
The attacks would mark the first time the sect, which launched an uprising last year, had struck outside of the country`s predominately Muslim north.
Many have attributed the bombings in the central Nigerian city of Jos to the struggle for political and economic power between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups in the region, with hundreds killed in previous clashes there.
"O nations of the world, be informed that verily the attacks in Suldaniyya (Jos) and Borno on the eve of Christmas was carried out by us, Jama-atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda-Awati Wal Jihad, under the leadership of Abu Muhammad, Abubakar bin Muhammad Shekau (May Allah preserve him)," a statement on the site said.
The attacks were meant "to start avenging the atrocities committed against Muslims in those areas, and the country in general. Therefore we will continue with our attacks on disbelievers and their allies and all those who help them ..."
Jama-atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda-Awati Wal Jihad translates roughly to "People Committed to the Prophet`s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad."
Suspected members of the sect known as Boko Haram, which launched an uprising in Nigeria last year, have previously said they want to be known as a group that goes by that name.
Shekau, the name mentioned in the statement, is the suspected Boko Haram leader. Video footage of a man believed to be Shekau speaking in the Hausa language has also been posted on the website.
"We are the ones who carried out the attack on ... Jos," he says. "We are the Jama-atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda-Awati Wal Jihad that have been maliciously branded Boko Haram ...
"Everybody knows about the gruesome murders of Muslims in different parts of Nigeria ... Jos is a testimony to the gruesome killings of our Muslim brethren and the abductions of our women and children whose whereabouts are still unknown ...
"My message to my Muslim brethren is that they should know that this war is a war between Muslims and infidels. This is a religious war."
The address for the website had been given in a video that emerged earlier this year purportedly from sect members.
Abdulrahman Akano, police commissioner for Plateau state, where Jos is the capital, cast doubt on the claim.
"Anybody can post anything on the Internet," he said, adding that the bomb blasts were not the usual method used by Boko Haram, which has been blamed for string of attacks in northern Nigeria in recent months.
The Christmas Eve bomb blasts in Jos and reprisals killed at least 80 people, Nigeria`s emergency agency said.
Also on Friday, suspected Islamist sect members attacked three churches in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, in Borno state, killing six people and leaving one church burnt.
The statement on the website also claimed responsibility for the church attacks.
Police have said there appeared to be no link between the incidents in the vast country`s north and central regions, though the bombings marked the first time explosives had been used to such an extent in the Jos area.
Jos is in the so-called middle-belt region between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south and has long been a hotspot of ethnic and religious friction.
Many attribute the unrest in Jos to the struggle for economic and political power between the Christian Beroms, seen as the indigenous ethnic group in the region, and the Hausa-Fulani Muslims, viewed as the more recent arrivals.
The sect known as Boko Haram launched an uprising last year in Nigeria`s north that ended with a brutal police and military assault which left hundreds dead.
Sect members have been blamed for a series of recent attacks, including shootings of police officers and community leaders, as well as raids on police posts and a prison in the north.
The attacks come ahead of elections set for April.