Kano: Suspected members of an Islamist sect blamed for a series of attacks in Nigeria`s north shot dead a soldier guarding a church on Sunday and stole his rifle, an Army spokesman said.
Attackers on motorcycles killed the soldier in the city of Maiduguri, Army spokesman Lieutenant Abubakar Abdullahi said.
They attacked as he was on his way to buy a charge card for his mobile phone, Abdullahi said.
"He was among an Army patrol unit stationed around the church to protect it from attack following spates of armed attacks on churches in the city in recent weeks," he added.
Three such attacks on Christmas Eve killed six people and destroyed one church.
Authorities also said they suspected the sect known as Boko Haram, which launched an uprising in 2009, had been behind recent armed robberies. Officials said the group wanted the money to buy weapons.
Last week, police said three people were killed in a robbery in Maiduguri by gunmen suspected to be sect members, according to police. Residents said five people were killed.
On Saturday, soldiers shot and killed a motorcyclist who tried to avoid an Army checkpoint, mistaking him for an Islamists seeking to carry out an attack, according to Abdullahi.
But the rider might have been trying to avoid arrest because of a motorcycle ban in place to stop attacks by the sect, officials said. Many of the killings have been carried out by gunmen on motorcycles.
More than 80 people have been killed in the last seven months in Maiduguri in attacks blamed on Boko Haram, according to security sources.
Police, however, have said politics may be behind some of the attacks in the run up to April general elections.