Two killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks on voters in Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - At least two people were killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks on polling stations in northeast Nigeria on Saturday, residents and an election official told AFP.

The attacks happened in the neighbouring villages of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani in the Nafada district of Gombe state, which has been repeatedly targeted by the Islamists.

An election official, who requested anonymity, said: "We could hear the gunmen shouting, 'Didn't we warn you about staying away from (the) election?'"

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video message last month that the militants would disrupt the election, which they see as "un-Islamic".

"This election will not be held even if we are dead. Even if we are not alive, Allah will not allow you to do it," he said.

The threat and a spate of suicide attacks and bombings against "soft" targets in restive northern Nigeria have prompted the authorities to impose tight security across the country.

Nigeria's presidential election had been due to be held on February 14 but security concerns forced the country's electoral commission to postpone it just a week before the scheduled vote.

IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre said there were 28 Boko Haram attacks in the three weeks after the delay was announced compared with 18 in the three weeks beforehand - a 56 per cent rise.

There was also an increase in attacks in the six weeks after a crackdown against the militants began by Nigeria and coalition partners Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

"We also saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of suicide attacks in this period," Matthew Henman, head of the centre, said on Saturday.

The election official said the masked gunmen arrived in Birin Bolawa in a pickup truck at about 8.30am local time, just after accreditation for Saturday's presidential election had begun.

One voter was shot dead and others fled in panic.

"They set fire to all the election materials we abandoned as we escaped," he added.

Karim Jauro, a resident of Birin Fulani said the second attack happened at about 9.15 am, adding that had they known about the earlier shooting they would have abandoned the polling station.

"As soon as people saw them they began to run away but the gunmen opened fire on the polling station, killing one man," he said.

"They burnt the election materials. We strongly believe they are Boko Haram who have been warning people not to participate in the elections."