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20 killed in attack on Christians

Gunmen from a radical Muslim sect have attacked a town hall in Nigeria, killing at least 20 people who had gathered for a meeting of a Christian ethnic group.

The attack at noon on Friday targeted a town hall where Christian Igbo people were holding a meeting, with gunmen chanting "God is great" as they fired Kalashnikov rifles.

The killings claimed by Boko Haram come after the group threatened to begin specifically targeting Christians living in the country's Muslim north in its increasingly bloody sectarian fight with Nigeria's central government.

The attack occurred in Mubi in Adamawa state as Igbo traders held a meeting before opening up their shops for business, said local police commissioner Ade Shinaba.

"We started hearing many gunshots through the windows," said Okey Raymond, 48, who attended the meeting. "Everyone scampered for safety, but the gunmen chanted: 'God is great God is great' while shooting at us."

Raymond said he hid under a table and escaped out a back door. The gunmen also carried knives and machetes, the police commissioner said.

No arrests have been made in the attack, which left at least another 15 people wounded.

Friday's attack came after gunmen attacked a church in the north-east Nigeria city of Gombe during a prayer service on Thursday night, spraying the congregation with gunfire and killing at least eight people, including the pastor's wife, according to local medical officials.

In a statement to the Daily Trust newspaper, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in Gombe and Mubi. "We want to prove to the federal government of Nigeria that we can always change our tactics," said the spokesman.

Nigeria's central government has been slow to respond to the sect. On December 31, President Goodluck Jonathan declared regions of Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobe states to be under a state of emergency - but these did not include the areas where the recent church and town hall attacks happened.

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