Soldiers shot dead in mosque attack

Two soldiers have been shot dead at a mosque in Nigeria, a day after 19 worshippers were killed in an attack on a church, an army official has said.

Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel Olorunyomi said three gunmen on motorcycles shot the soldiers, who were on patrol, outside Okene Central Mosque in Kogi state just after Muslim worshippers ended a prayer session.

The assault came a day after an attack on a church in a quiet area on the outskirts of Okene left 19 Christians dead.

No group has claimed responsibility for either attack, but the violence comes as Nigeria struggles with a growing Islamist insurgency known as Boko Haram which has attacked places of worship in other parts of the country which is evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.

The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, has been held responsible for more than 660 killings this year alone in Nigeria. Its demands have included the strict implementation of Islamic Shariah law across Nigeria.

The national chief of police, Mohammed Abubakar, ordered round-the-clock surveillance of all places of worship in the central state of Kogi following the church and mosque attacks.

Such religious attacks are newer to this fertile state. In April, however, authorities there raided a bomb factory run by suspected sect members. They also blamed Boko Haram for a prison break in the Kogi town of Koton-Karifi in February which freed 119 inmates.

Most of the attacks claimed by Boko Haram have occurred in the nation's north where major cities have seen an increased security presence and where residents live in constant fear of the next bombing or drive-by shooting.

Two past presidents and one-time rivals described a nation "gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty", in a joint statement a week ago. It said "virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day-to-day lives without great anxiety and trepidation".

But the attacks continue unabated even as authorities dispatch more security officers - who have themselves been targets. Gunmen in a car shot two policemen on patrol in the outskirts of the north-eastern city of Bauchi on Wednesday, said the state police chief, Mohammed Ladan.

Meanwhile, in the north-western city of Sokoto, a concerned bystander's tip-off led to the discovery and safe detonation of a concealed bomb, said national police spokesman Frank Mba.