MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Boko Haram gunmen on Friday killed a Nigerian Islamic monarch in their northeastern stronghold of Borno in an attack that also targeted two other Muslim royals who escaped unhurt, the state government said.
The Emir of Gwoza, Idrissa Timta, was shot dead in the Tashan Alade area of Borno state while travelling by road to the funeral of another senior cleric, Borno's government said.
The Emir of Uba, Ali Ibn Ismaila Mamza, and the Emir of Askira, Abdullahi Ibn Muhammadu Askirama, were also in the convoy but were not harmed.
"The gunmen... specifically targeted the vehicle conveying the three emirs and opened fire," said a statement from Borno's state secretary, Baba Ahmed Jidda.
Timta "was killed around 9:00am (0800 GMT) today (Friday) following a bloody attack by some gunmen believed to be members of Boko Haram", the statement added.
The Islamist rebels, who have killed thousands in a five-year uprising, have repeatedly targeted Nigeria's Islamic monarchs, whom they accuse of betraying the faith by submitting to the authority of the secular government.
A suicide bomber tried to kill Nigeria's third most powerful emir, the Shehu of Borno, Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, as he left Friday prayers in July 2012.
The monarch survived the attack that left five people dead.
The convoy of the Emir of Kano, Nigeria's number two Islamic leader, was targeted in an attack last year.
The attack follows calls from activists for Nigeria's Islamic royals, including the Borno monarch, to play a greater role in curbing Boko Haram's violence and helping secure the release of the 219 schoolgirls held hostage by the insurgents.
The leader of Nigeria's Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa'ad Abubakar III, called for unity in the battle against Boko Haram in a public address at the National Mosque last weekend, urging his followers to support the government.
Prominent displays of support for the government from the country's top cleric may have caught the attention of some Boko Haram commanders.
But there was no immediate evidence linking Friday's attack to the Islamists or the Sultan's recent remarks.
Initial reports indicated that the gunmen were looking to abduct the emirs, reflecting an increasing trend for ransom kidnappings by the Islamists to fund their anti-government uprising.
The April 14 mass abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state, was the group's largest ever kidnapping and brought unprecedented global attention to the Boko Haram conflict. (AFP)