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Twin Nigeria church attacks

June 11, 2012

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a twin shooting and suicide bombing of Christian churches in Nigeria. The group vowed to continue attacks until the country adopted Shariah law.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011 photo, police officers armed with AK-47 rifles stand guard at sandbagged bunkers along a major road in Maiduguri, Nigeria. The radical sect Boko Haram, which in August 2011 bombed the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria, is the gravest security threat to Africa's most populous nation and is gaining prominence. A security agency crackdown, which human rights activists say has left innocent civilians dead, could be winning the insurgency even more supporters. (Foto:Sunday Alamba/AP/dapd)
Image: dapd

Islamist militants launched twin attacks on evangelical churches in northern Nigeria on Sunday, killing at least four people and wounding more than 40 others.

In northeastern town of Biu in Borno state, five gunmen open fired on a church congregation, killing one woman and wounding three others before fleeing, according police spokesman Samuel Tizhe.

"Three gunmen came to the premises of the church and started firing at people outside the church before going into the main building to carry on their killings," Hamidu Wakawa, one of the congregants, told the news agency Reuters. "Many people have been killed and wounded."

In the central city of Jos, a man drove a car to the Christ Chosen Church, detonating a suicide bomb that leveled the building, killing at least three people and wounding more than 40 others.

"The suicide bomber did not drive into the church before the explosion; he was in front of it," police spokesman Abuh Emmanuel told the Agence-France Presse (AFP) news agency. "The church building collapsed entirely due to the intensity of the bombing."

Angry Christian men reportedly assaulted local Muslims after the shooting.

Boko Haram claims responsibility

The Islamic militant group Boko Haram, which means Western education is sacrilege, claimed responsibility for the twin attacks, promising more violence until Shariah law is implemented.

"We launched these attacks to prove the Nigerian security wrong and to debunk their claim that we have been weakened by the military crackdown," a Boko Haram spokesman, who called himself Abul Qaqa, told reporters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri via telephone. 

"The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state," he said.

Violent campaign

Boko Haram has killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009, with violence focused in Nigeria's largely Muslim north. The group previously claimed responsibility for a January attack in the northern city of Kano that killed 185 people. In August 2011, the militant group targeted the Nigerian UN headquarters in the capital, Abuja, in a suicide bombing that killed 25 people.

Members of Boko Haram have reportedly received training from al Qaeda-linked militants in northern Mali, which is currently under the control of Taureg rebels who declared independence following a chaotic military coup there in March.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, its largest oil producer and a member of OPEC. The West African nation is approximately 50 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian, with the remaining 10 percent adhering to traditional animist beliefs.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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