The leader of a radical Islamic sect in northern Nigeria has been killed in police detention hours after being captured by the security forces, a police spokesman said on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Security forces captured militant preacher Mohammed Yusuf, whose Boko Haram sect has been responsible for clashes which have killed more than 180 people in recent days, after a manhunt involving military helicopters and armed police.
A Reuters reporter saw Yusuf at a military barracks in the northern city of Maiduguri after his capture. Yusuf had no visible injuries and was standing up. He was later transferred to the city's police headquarters where he died.
"He has been killed. You can come and see his body at the state police command headquarters," Isa Azare, spokesman for the police command in Maiduguri, said.
Army and police earlier battled the remnants of Yusuf's sect -- which wants a wider adoption of Sharia (Islamic law) across Africa's most populous nation -- after shelling his compound.
Bursts of gunfire rang out as the security forces went from door-to-door in Maiduguri, hunting his followers.
The violence erupted when members of the group were arrested on Sunday in Bauchi state, some 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Maiduguri, on suspicion of plotting to attack a police station.
Yusuf's supporters, armed with machetes, knives, home-made hunting rifles and petrol bombs, then went on the rampage in several states across northern Nigeria, attacking churches, police stations, prisons and government buildings.
President Umaru Yar'Adua, on an official visit to Brazil, spoke by telephone with northern governors and urged traditional and religious leaders to use Friday prayers to warn people about the dangers of such sects.
"The president stated that religious groups such as Boko Haram, which seeks to disrupt the peace and security of the Nigerian state, should not be the bride of any true Muslim individual or group," his spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said.
Nigeria's Muslim umbrella group Jama'atu Nasril Islam has already condemned the violence and backed the security forces.