WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it believes the Feb. 14 election in Nigeria is a factor behind the sharp increase in attacks by Boko Haram Islamist militants in the north of the country.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said, however, the elections should go forward despite the increase in attacks, which human rights groups say have forced about 20,000 Nigerians to flee to neighbouring countries in recent weeks.
"There has been a sharp escalation in the number of reported casualties," Harf told a daily briefing. "We do believe the election is a factor," she added.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Will Dunham)