Friday, November 11, 2011

NIGERIA: Bloodshed as northern militants launch a series of attacks


Nigeria has seen further outbreaks of religion-related violence in the past week. Meanwhile, CSW prepares for Archbishop Ben Kwashi’s speech on the current situation in Northern Nigeria at its forthcoming conference.

Christian prayer meeting raided

Last week, local youths blocked roads returned briefly to Tabak Village in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA), Kaduna State, in protest at an armed raid on a prayer meeting that left two people dead.

The attack on St Joseph’s Catholic Church occurred at around 11.45pm on Thursday 3 November. According to eyewitnesses, gunmen raided the church as a prayer meeting was ending, fired at a congregation consisting mainly of women and children, and escaped into the bush. Two women died at the scene. Twelve other people were wounded mainly in the arms and legs,two of whom died on the following day.

The raid took place near the town of Zonkwa, an area visited by CSW recently as part of a fact-finding visit to gather testimonies of those affected by post-election violence. The following evening an armed raid on a house in Kurmin Bi Village, also near Zonkwa, left one man dead. The area is currently reported to be tense, with locals receiving telephone calls threatening further violence.

Kaduna State government urged to act decisively

In a statement issued on behalf of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the organisation’s secretary, the Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, unequivocally condemned the armed attack “on innocent Christian worshipers in the church”, and expressed anxiety that the raid had occurred “in spite of the heavy presence of soldiers in the area”. The statement concluded with a call to the Government of Kaduna State “to ensure that the perpetrators of this evil act are fished out and brought to book. Meanwhile we call on all Christians to be calm and prayerful in the face of this new dimension of attack on the Church”.

Islamist extremists stage further coordinated attacks

On 5 October, it became clear that over 100 people had died when the Islamist extremist militia Boko Haram launched coordinated overnight attacks in the Borno State capital of Maiduguri, and in the towns of Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe State. In Damaturu, the militia destroyed a local police station, killing around eleven police officers, and moved on to the Jerusalem suburb, an area predominantly occupied by Christians, where they had destroyed ten churches and several Christian-owned properties and businesses. Two people were killed during the attack in nearby Potiskum.

On Sunday 6 October, many Christians overcame fear to worship under trees or in the open air near their destroyed churches buildings.

Security officials and pastor targeted in Maiduguri

In Maiduguri, around four bombs exploded in different locations, and three suicide bombers drove a four-wheel drive into the local headquarters of the Joint Task Force, damaging the outer wall of the compound and injuring an unspecified number of soldiers. Boko Haram members also broke into the home of a pastor from Deeper Life Church in the Railway suburb of Maiduguri, and shot him and two visitors dead.

In a statement issued to the press, Boko Haram threatened to continue the violence.

Commenting on the violence, a source in Maiduguri told CSW, “let us just be praying. That is our only hope. Because in the midst of all of this our God is still sovereign. There is nothing He cannot do. It is beyond human help. It is a time for Him to act.”

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