Security officials assess the scene of a bomb blast in Kaduna
By Tunde Sulaiman, with agency reports
Two weeks after the United States along with Britain issued a travel alert to citizens living in the country of a possible Boko Haram attack over the Easter holiday period, on Wednesday the US issued a fresh warning to its citizens indicating that the Islamist is planning attacks on Abuja, including major hotels there.
"The U.S. Embassy has received information that Boko Haram may be planning attacks in Abuja, Nigeria, including against hotels frequently visited by Westerners," an emergency message on its website said on Wednesday.
"The Nigerian government is aware of the threat and is actively implementing security measures."
The U.S. authorities issued a similar warning in November, naming the Hilton, Sheraton and Nicon Luxury as Abuja hotels that could be targets for Boko Haram, but it later retracted it, reports Reuters.
Authorities said then that high profile hotels were always a possible target but security was tight and people should not live in fear. However, occupancy at those hotels dipped after the last U.S. warning.
Incidentally, a similar travel advisory warning issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the American government of possible Boko Haram attacks in a number of states in the north over the Easter period saw an attempted attack on a church in Kaduna which killed over 40 people.
However, this time the US embassy did not name specific targets.
The Hilton in Abuja said it always took security seriously.
Boko Haram strikes usually target police, authority figures and churches in the north, although there have been a handful of deadly attacks in and around Abuja, which is home to the Presidency, government ministries and foreign embassies.
The sect claimed responsibility for a bombing at police headquarters in Abuja last year before a car bomb at the U.N. Nigeria headquarters in August killed 26 people.
The police said they killed one member of the sect and arrested 13 others on Tuesday during a crackdown in the sect's home base of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, which shares borders with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Boko Haram shot dead two people on Monday in Maiduguri, where it has carried out almost daily attacks in recent months.
Boko Haram's purported leader, Abubakar Shekau, has appeared in two al Qaeda style videos posted on the Internet this year but has made only vague threats and no clear demands.
He said his main objective was to spread Islamic law, free its imprisoned members and kill "infidels" who were working against it, whether Christian or Muslim.
Security experts believe Shekau is likely the leader of the main faction of the sect based in Maiduguri, which typically targets the police who killed its members, prisons and kills religious figures who speak out against its insurgency.
There are several factions within Boko Haram spread across the north and some have loose ties with Islamist groups outside the country, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, security experts and Western diplomats say.
Boko Haram, which wants sharia, Islamic law, more widely applied across Africa's most populous nation, has killed hundreds in gun and bomb attacks this year.