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Explosions, gunfire at south Nigeria rally kill policeman

A police officer was killed and several people wounded when five explosions hit an opposition rally in Okrika.

FILE: Explosions hit an opposition political rally in southern Nigeria on Tuesday and Islamist insurgents struck in the north, with unrest spreading after a presidential election was postponed.Picture: AFP

LAGOS - Explosions hit an opposition political rally in southern Nigeria on Tuesday and Islamist insurgents struck in the north, with unrest spreading after a presidential election was postponed.

A police officer was killed and several people wounded when five explosions and a burst of gunfire hit an opposition rally in Okrika in southern Nigeria's oil producing Rivers state, home town of President Goodluck Jonathan's wife, Patience.

In the north, suspected Boko Haram Islamist bombers killed at least 10 people in three blasts at a military checkpoint and a suicide bombing at a restaurant.

A presidential election due to take place last Saturday has been postponed for six weeks, raising fears of the spread of violence in a country where voting has often been accompanied by unrest.

Jonathan, a southern Christian from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), is facing a challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

Nigeria has roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, and both major parties are active in both the north and south.

Jonathan's opponents accuse him of doing too little to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, where thousands of civilians have been killed. They also say the decision to postpone the election to March 28 could lead to more unrest across the country.

Rivers state's outgoing Governor Rotimi Amaechi, a member of the opposition APC who was not at the rally that was targeted on Tuesday, described the bombing there as intimidation by the ruling party: "They don't want people to come out and vote because they know they'll lose," he said.

Rivers PDP spokesman Emmanuel Okah said by phone that it was a clash between rival "cultists", Nigerian university gangs that combine occult rituals with criminal activities.

The rally was staged by Dakuku Peterside, the APC's candidate to replace Amaechi, who is standing down as governor. A policeman died at hospital of wounds sustained in the blast, Rivers Police Commissioner Dan Bature told Reuters by telephone.

Nigeria has a long history of political thuggery and intimidation that have repeatedly marred its polls since the end of military rule in 1999.

Rivers, where Ameachi defected to the opposition APC in 2013, is considered one of the major flashpoints. Unidentified assailants threw dynamite at opposition coalition offices in the state a month ago.

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