Abuja: Nigeria`s top Muslim leader has urged authorities to stop blaming an Islamist sect for all violence in the country`s northeast, hit by scores of recent bomb attacks, and pursue those responsible.
Sultan of Sokoto Sa`ad Abubakar also criticised a deployment of troops to the region, with soldiers accused of brutal raids that have allegedly left dozens of people dead and houses burnt.
"Most of the crises in the northeast are not caused by Boko Haram sect, so we have to ask ourselves, `Why is there violence in the northeast? Who are those behind them?`," the sultan said late Thursday.
"The government must fish them out and tell us those responsible for the crises. This thing did not start today. Stop blaming every violence on Boko Haram," the spiritual leader of Nigeria`s Muslims told other clerics in the northern city of Kaduna.
Nigeria`s northeast, particularly the city of Maiduguri, has seen almost daily bomb blasts and shootings in recent weeks blamed on the sect known as Boko Haram.
There has been intense speculation over whether some of the violence has been politically linked, as well as the sect`s source of support and financing.
The sect has claimed to be fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa`s most populous nation of 150 million people split roughly in half between Christians and Muslims.
Hundreds of troops have been deployed to Maiduguri to deal with the violence and have in turn been accused of serious abuses.
"If members of Boko Haram are known, then what is the best way to solve the problem? The problem cannot be solved by violence. The problems cannot be solved by drafting soldiers to cities where there is (a) problem," he said.
Boko Haram launched an uprising in 2009 put down by a brutal military assault that left hundreds dead.
It seemed to reemerge last year with shootings by gunmen on motorcycles of police, soldiers, politicians and community leaders.
Bomb blasts have become more common in recent months, with most occurring in Maiduguri, though an explosion ripped through a car park at police headquarters in the capital Abuja last month and several blasts have occurred in Suleija, near the capital.
Meanwhile, a statement distributed to a number of journalists allegedly from the sect has called on authorities in Kano, northern Nigeria`s largest state, to release its members from custody.
"This ugly attitude must be checked and stopped with immediate effect and all those arrested should be released immediately," the statement addressed to the state governor said.
"Otherwise... we may be forced to deploy our men to your state and make it worse than Maiduguri."
Both the state government and police denied knowledge of the letter.