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Nigeria declares state of emergency; Recent attacks leave 40 dead

Nigeria's president on Saturday declared a state of emergency in parts of Africa's most populous nation, after a recent slew of deadly attacks blamed on a northern-based radical Muslim sect killed dozens of people, as separate communal clashes in the country's southeast left more than 40 dead.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared an indefinite state of emergency in four states, which would allow security agencies there to make arrests without proof and conduct searches without warrants. He also ordered the closure of international borders near the affected areas.

They include parts of northeastern state of Yobe and the central states of Plateau and Niger, all hit by the Christmas Day attacks that left at least 42 people dead, for which a radical sect known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility. Attackers targeted churches and one of the state offices of Nigeria's secret police.

The president also declared a state of emergency in parts of the northeastern state of Borno, a stronghold of the feared Islamic sect.

"What began as sectarian crises in the northeastern parts of the country has gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security," Jonathan said.

"[The state of emergency] means extra powers to security agencies in those areas," said National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi, who also told journalists in Abuja that it would last "until the situation improves."

Jonathan also said Saturday that he has directed top security officials to set up a special counterterrorism unit to fight the growing threat posed by Boko Haram.

Earlier in the year, an Aug. 26 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital Abuja killed 24 people and wounded 116 others. The sect claimed responsibility for that attack.