4 killed die in Nigeria attack

4 killed die in Nigeria attack A blast followed by a shootout near a mosque claimed four lives as suspected militants of a radical group launched an attack in the troubled northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri.

Tension has been high in the oil-rich African country since 42 persons were killed on Christmas day in bomb attacks on churches and other public places in northern Nigeria.

Eyewitnesses said the blast occurred near a mosque after Friday prayers, but a spokesman for the military ascribed the incident to armed robbers who wanted to attack a nearby market.

While several witnesses said four deaths resulted from the bomb blast, the military said two people were killed when militants engaged them in a shootout with the intention of carrying out robbery operations.

The military spokesman Lt Col Hassan Mohammed said it is holding radical group Boko Haram responsible for the attack as the group has used robbery as a means of raising money in the past.

The activities of the group have raised fears of religious conflict since the Christmas day bombings, with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) warning of retaliation.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan also held a meeting with his security chiefs in which he told them to take urgent steps to prevent threats posed by the group.

On Tuesday, a top Islamic leader appealed for calm after a crucial meeting with the president.

Muhammad Saad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto caliphate met President Jonathan and said "good people must come together to defeat the evil ones".

Boko Haram sect has been waging a bloody conflict with an aim of installing an Islamic government and Sharia rule in the country.

The highest toll on the Christmas day attack came at St Theresa's Catholic Church in Madalla in Niger State where 27 persons died on the spot after a bomb exploded at a car park.

The 150-million pupulation of Nigeria has almost equal sections of Muslims and Christians. While Muslims are predominant in the north, Christians are concentrated mostly in the South.