Religious Violence In Nigeria Claims 5 Lives
GOMBE, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen attacked a church in northeast Nigeria during a prayer service Thursday night, killing at least five people and wounding others in an assault that occurred amid an increasingly violent campaign by a radical Muslim sect.
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Pastor Johnson Jauro said the gunfire sprayed the Deeper Life Church in Gombe, the capital of Gombe state, injuring several worshippers and killing his wife and two others. He spoke at a local hospital, where a joint team of soldiers and police officers stood guard. Two other people later died at the hospital from their wounds and an Associated Press reporter saw their bodies.
Local police spokesman Ahmed Muhammad confirmed the attack, but declined to say how many people the gunmen killed and wounded.
The assault occurred as Nigeria remains under attack by the sect known as Boko Haram. The oil-rich nation’s president recently put regions of the country under a state of emergency due to the threat, but that did not include Gombe, which sits about 350 miles (570 kilometers) from Nigeria’s central capital, Abuja.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on Boko Haram. The sect has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language, is responsible for more than 500 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. The group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 39 people in a Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church near Abuja, as well as a suicide car bombing targeting the U.N. headquarters in the capital that killed 25 people and wounded more than 100.
Nigeria’s weak central government has been slow to respond to the sect.
On Dec. 31, President Goodluck Jonathan declared regions of Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobe states to be under a state of emergency – meaning authorities can make arrests without proof and conduct searches without warrants. He also ordered international borders near Borno and Yobe state to be closed.
However, it remains unclear what effect that will have on a sect that has adopted hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings to target the country’s military and police, as well as civilians.
Meanwhile, a military spokesman said Thursday that soldiers killed two armed men suspected to be Boko Haram members after “resisting arrest” in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. Lt. Col. Hassan Ifijeh Mohammed said the army believes the gunmen were responsible for an attack Wednesday evening that left two people dead.
However, human rights activists say security forces have carried out so-called “extra-judicial killings” out of frustration and anger at being unable to stop Boko Haram.
Shadows Of Civil War Haunt Religious Violence In Nigeria
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s president said Sunday that ongoing sectarian assaults by a radical Islamist sect are “even worse” than the country’s 1960s civil war that saw 1 million people die – suggesting that the enemy this time could be lurking anywhere and everywhere.
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President Goodluck Jonathan’s comments about the sect known as Boko Haram came as authorities said that suspected gunmen from the group killed at least six people in separate weekend assaults. The sect has killed at least 52 people in recent days after pledging to target Christians living in the multiethnic nation’s Muslim north.
Speaking at a church service honoring the country’s military dead, Jonathan said he believes Boko Haram members or sympathizers work in the government and the country’s National Assembly, as well as its security agencies.
“The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought,” Jonathan said. “During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from. You can even know the route they are coming from, you can even know what caliber of weapon they will use and so on.”
He added that Boko Haram remains murky, people in the north had told him it could be possible their own children could belong to the sect without them knowing about it.
“Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house,” Jonathan said.
Nigeria’s civil war began in 1967, when the Igbo people of Nigeria’s southeast broke away from the country and formed the Republic of Biafra. Fighting lasted about three years, with many fatalities coming from Biafran refugees starving from a lack of food.
While largely not talked about even today, Jonathan has referenced the civil war in the past. After his April election win saw 800 people die in political and religious rioting, he described the violence as “sad reminders” of the war.
“As a nation we are yet to come to terms with the level of human suffering, destruction and displacement, including that of our children to faraway countries, occasioned by those dark days,” he said then.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 510 killings last year alone, according to an Associated Press count. It has targeted churches in the past in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria. In a recent attack, it killed 20 Igbo traders holding a meeting in Nigeria’s northeast.
Authorities said gunmen attacked a military vehicle Sunday afternoon in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Hassan Ifijeh Mohammed says the attack killed three civilians and wounded six civilians and one soldier.
Local police commissioner Simeon Midenda said another attack on a tea shop Saturday night in Biu in Borno state killed three people.