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Nigeria court: Life in jail for 4 bombers

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MICHELLE FAUL | July 9, 2013 09:01 AM EST | AP

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LAGOS, Nigeria — A Nigerian court on Tuesday sentenced four alleged Islamic extremists to life in prison for two bombings that killed 19 people last year, the official news agency of Nigeria reported.

Prosecutors brought conspiracy and assault charges against the suspects, though Nigeria has strict new anti-terrorism laws that make the death sentence mandatory for anyone found guilty in an attack that causes fatalities.

The fate of four other men accused in the same trial was not immediately known.

The eight are believed to belong to the Boko Haram Islamic sect that is terrorizing northeast Nigeria with attacks on schools. Britain on Monday banned Boko Haram – whose name means Western religion is forbidden – making membership of or support of the group a criminal offense.

The eight had been found guilty of masterminding and carrying out an April 8, 2012, bombing on an electoral commission office that killed 16 people and a July 10, 2012, bombing of a church that killed three.

They had also been accused of shooting dead three police officers on May 23, 2012 and bombing a political rally that killed three people March 3 that year, though it was not clear on Tuesday if they were convicted in these incidents.

Boko Haram has increasingly targeted civilians in attacks this year that have not been halted by a massive deployment of troops under a state of emergency declared May 14 in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

Boko Haram and splinter groups are believed to have killed more than 1,600 people since 2010, according to an AP count. Human Rights Watch says more than 3,600 people have been killed by the extremists since 2009.