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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday vowed to “decisively deal” with members of Islamist sect Boko Haram which has pressed on with attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives.

“A faceless group of enemies of our democracy and prosperity of our nation have continued to carry out terrorist attacks on innocent people in our nation,” he told senators.

The Boko Haram insurgency in the Muslim-dominated north and in the national capital Abuja has killed hundreds since mid-2009.

“This development is one that particularly concerns me as the president, and is one I will continue to decisively deal with,” he said.

Jonathan sought the support of the senators, who are on a retreat in Uyo, capital of southeastern Akwa Ibom state, to tackle the menace.

“We must work together under a new social and political contract, to safeguard our nation,” said Jonathan, who on Sunday said the sect was seeking to incite a religious crisis by attacking churches in an attempt to destabilise the government.

“Let us unite to defeat the forces of darkness.”

While promising to continue to reorganise security, he stressed the need to form new laws that “will make it easier to track, obstruct, prosecute and punish terrorists. And I need your support.”

On Friday, Jonathan fired his national security adviser and defence minister as the sect multiplied its gun and bomb attacks.

The United States on Thursday said it had designated the head of the main branch of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, a “global terrorist” along with two others tied to both Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.

Nigeria has been grappling with Boko Haram’s insurgency for months, but criticism of Jonathan intensified after three suicide bombings at churches on June 17 sparked reprisals from Christians who burnt mosques and killed dozens of Muslims.

More rioting occurred in the days following the bombings in Kaduna state, while two days of clashes between security forces and suspected Islamists in the northeastern city of Damaturu left at least 40 dead.

At least 106 people were killed in the violence.

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