Boko Haram’s recent attack on the Nigerian city of Damaturu was but the latest and most deadly incident in the ongoing genocidal assault against Nigerian Christians.
In its efforts to impose Sharia law throughout Nigeria, the Islamist terror group Boko Haram has systematically targeted Nigerian government officials, Christians and those Muslims who dare to publicly denigrate the terrorist organization.
To that end, over 200 Boko Haram insurgents recently descended on the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu and engaged in a raging four hour gun and bombing attack with Nigerian police, a battle that resulted in nearly 150 deaths and the destruction of churches, mosques and police stations.
However, reports from Damaturu, capital of the Nigerian state of Yobe, indicate that the intent of the attack was specifically designed to target and kill Christian residents of the city. Of the nearly 150 people killed, at least 130 of were reported to be Christian.
According to Idris Garba, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Yobe State, the Boko Haram assault was a “direct attack against Christians. If you said you were a Christian, they killed you. They were selective. They attacked 11 churches. They didn’t attack any mosques.”
Not surprisingly, the brutal assault has caused a near exodus of Christians from Damaturu, leaving Boko Haram to claim the city as its new headquarters.
While Boko Haram’s reign of terror through suicide bombings and targeted assassinations has produced over 400 deaths in 2011, most of the targeted victims have been Nigerian Christians, including nearly100 who were killed over the summer.
In fact, the attack on Damaturu had been preceded earlier in the week by Boko Haram members opening fire on a church in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, killing two Christians and critically wounding 11 others.
Of course, killing Christians in Nigeria should engender little surprise given that since 1999 when Sharia law was imposed in 12 northern Nigerian states and parts of four others, Nigeria has been witness to the death of thousands of Nigerian Christians and the destruction of nearly one thousand churches.
In 2010 alone, an estimated 2,000 Christians were killed in clashes with Muslim extremists, with hundreds of churches burnt to the ground. During that time over 500 Christians were reportedly killed in brutal clashes with Muslims in the city of Jos in central Nigeria’s Plateau state
That level of violence against Christians has, unfortunately, seeped over into 2011. In January, 35 Christians were killed in clashes with Muslims in the central Nigerian state of Bauchi; in February Jos was witness to 24 Christians killed in targeted attacks; and in May Muslims ambushed and killed 17 Christians in Bauchi state.
In April 2011, the presidential election of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south, triggered a series of Muslim rampages which caused the death of 100 Christians and the burning of more than 40 churches.
So it came as little surprise then that the brutal attack in Damaturu prompted Nigerian Christians to urge the Nigerian president to declare a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Yobe and Borno, scenes of some of the most viscous assaults against Christians.
While President Jonathan responded to the attacks in Damaturu by saying he had “directed security agencies to ensure the arrest of perpetrators of these heinous acts,” his resolve seemed to have little effect on Boko Haram.
Shortly after Jonathan’s statement, Boko Haram spokesman Abul-Qaqa stated, “More attacks are on the way.” Boko Haram Imam, Abubakar Shekau, followed up that declaration by telling his followers that the terror group needed to increase the violence, saying “Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason.”
Of course, its understandable that Boko Haram feels little threatened by the Nigerian president given the response to Boko Haram’s suicide car bombing of UN headquarters in June in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, an attack which killed 24 people and left another 116 wounded.
That attack led the Nigerian government to establish a presidential committee which called for establishing dialogue with Boko Haram as the means by which to deal with the terror group. Not surprisingly, that peace overture was rejected by Boko Haram, which chose instead to utilize the intervening time to coordinate a series of suicide bombings and assassinations across Nigeria.
Yet, Boko Haram isn’t the only ones questioning the resolve of the Nigerian government. International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho declared that “The Nigerian government has utterly failed to protect its citizens from attacks by Islamists and the deliberate targeting and killing of Christians.”
Mohammed Majeed Ali, a police chief from Bauchi, took that same view when he recently said, “I want to make it categorically clear that enough is enough…despite the fact that the Christian community has constantly remained peaceful, it has become a target for these extremist Muslims even when there is peace.”
Yet, while Boko Haram may publicly stake claim for most of the killings of Nigeria’s Christians, its actions have certainly found support among other Muslim Nigerians. Specifically, accusations have swirled that Boko Haram has been aided in some circumstances by Muslim soldiers in the Nigerian army.
In one such incident in August 2011 in Plateau state, Islamists killed nine members of one Christian family and whose lone surviving family member claimed, “I can swear to God Almighty that the attack was carried out with the support of the soldiers; I saw them.”
That view was apparently confirmed by Plateau’s Governor Jonah Jang who called for the immediate withdrawal of the Nigerian army because he believed Muslims in the army “have started taking sides in this religious crisis, and if they are not called to order it will be dangerous for the country.”
That danger was on full display in Plateau the following month when Muslims reportedly aided by men in Nigerian army uniforms butchered to death eight members of a Christian family in the village of Tatu; seven Christians in the village of Zakalio; ten Christians in the village of Tsohon Foron; and 14 Christians, including pregnant women, in the village of Vwang Kogot.
Unfortunately, the brutal trend continued in October in the town of Yelwa in Bauchi state when Muslim soldiers reportedly shot and killed a Christian mother of five after they had been called in to restore order after Muslims had attacked Christian residents and set their homes on fire. According to the dead woman’s husband, the soldiers broke into his home and “shot my wife twice in the chest.”
While the intent of these murderous actions by Boko Haram and its fervent Muslim adherents seem so awfully clear, to others they still remain a mystery. That view was perhaps best expressed by a Christian survivor of Damaturu who pleaded, “I don’t think I have offended anybody to suffer this. I am appealing to Boko Haram to consider the joy and happiness of living together as one.”
Tragically, as events continue to dictate, Boko Haram’s happiness can only be achieved by viciously eradicating a Christian presence in Nigeria.
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