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Boko Haram militants shoot Nigerian voters dead at polling stations

Militant group Boko Haram followed through on a warning to disrupt the process.

Nigeria Election People displaced following attacks by Islamist militants lineup for accreditation before casting their votes, in Yola, Nigeria. Source: Sunday Alamba/AP/PA

NIGERIANS ARE VOTING to elect a new president today in a knife-edge contest hit by Boko Haram violence and new technology problems.

Boko Haram, the militant group whose insurgency had forced a six-week delay in voting, appeared to follow through on their warning to disrupt the process by attacking a number of polling stations in the northeastern state of Gombe, leaving at least seven dead.

“We could hear the gunmen shouting, ‘Didn’t we warn you about staying away from (the) election?’” one official said after the shootings in Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani.

Nigeria Election A young Nigerian girl from the Hausa tribe stands next to the line as her mother joins others queuing to validate their voting cards. Source: Ben Curtis/AP/PA

Today, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Junior Minister Seán Sherlock announced Ireland is dispatching 87 tonnes of emergency supplies to help families displaced by the Boko Haram violence.

Thousands of blankets, tents, cooking kits, jerry cans and other urgent supplies are being sent to northern Cameroon, where the refugees have fled to.

Nigeria Election People displaced following attacks by Islamist militants raise their arms as they pass through security before casting their votes, in Yola. Source: Sunday Alamba/AP/PA

The airlift, worth around €900,000 will be send this weekend from the UN humanitarian response depot in Accra, Ghana, where Irish Aid pre-positions supplies for use in global emergencies.

“I am gravely concerned about the serious security situation in north-eastern Nigeria and that large parts of the Nigerian border with Cameroon, Niger and Chad have fallen under Boko Haram’s control,” commented Minister Flanagan. “Their attacks have driven people from their homes and it is estimated that 1.5 million people have been displaced internally within Nigeria and that over 150,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad.”

As the brutal actions of this group continue to spread beyond its borders into neighbouring countries, Boko Haram now represents a threat to the peace and security of the whole region. This is a particularly difficult time, given today’s elections in Nigeria.

Nigeria Election Nigerian girls from the Hausa tribe wait as their mothers queue to validate their voting cards, at a polling station located in an Islamic school in Daura. Source: Ben Curtis/AP/PA

In many areas in Nigeria, the late arrival of officials and materials delayed the accreditation process in the morning ahead of the start of voting proper from 12.30 GMT.

New handheld technology to read biometric voter identity cards is being used for the first time, which the country’s electoral commission hopes will cut voter fraud that has blighted previous elections.

Nigeria Election People displace by Islamist militants wait to register before casting their votes in Yola, Nigeria. Source: Sunday Alamba/AP/PA

An apparent card reader malfunction forced President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience to leave their poll station while the problem was resolved after hanging around in the scorching heat in his home town of Otuoke.

Fourteen candidates are contesting the presidential poll, while 2,537 hopefuls from 28 parties are vying for 469 seats in the National Assembly at the same time.

- With reporting from AFP.

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