Nigeria: Muslim war against Christians escalates

'Religious cleansing' now underway in northern Nigeria as Islamist terrorists rampage. Vatican condemns violence against Christians.

A curfew has been imposed by Nigerian authorities in the city of Damaturu, following deadly clashes between Boko Haram islamist terrorists and the army in the northeastern state of Yobe. Violence swelled on June 18 and grew overnight in Damaturu. It is believed that at as many 52 deaths came about. Damaturu lies approximately 80 miles east of Maiduguri, a Boko Haram stronghold. Speaking in the name of Pope Benedict, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi condemned the attacks.

The surge in fatalities follows suicide bombing attacks on Sunday, June 17, on five Christian churches in Kaduna and Zaria in the state of Kaduna, central Nigeria. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the bombings. A statewide ban on movement has been reinstated there, while a 24-hour curfew is in effect for the city of Kaduna. Remains of one of the bombers were found near the Shalom church in Kaduna.

The Christian Association of Nigeria said in a statement that the car bombings in Kaduna are a clear indication of “religious cleansing” perpetrated by the Boko Haram religious sect. According to the Christian group, Boko Haram "has declared war on Christians and Christianity in Nigeria".  In a statement, the group said "The pattern of bombings and gun attacks suggests to us a systematic religious cleansing which reminds Christians of the genesis of a Jihad." It also criticized the federal government’s response, saying that it had “cast a hallmark of weakness” upon President Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership.

Three suicide bombings against Christian churches in Kaduna rocked the country on Sunday, June 18. Rioting ensued on the Sabbath and the dead piled up in Kaduna’s morgues and cemeteries. At least 19 people were killed by the bombings alone, 74 deaths are attributed to generalized violence. Christian youths set up roadblocks after the bombings, dragging Muslims from cars or motorbikes and killing them, witnesses said. Muslim youths took to the streets of Kaduna on June 19, burning tires and riddling the city with automatic gunfire and destroying a church. An explosion at the Panteka market in Kaduna destroyed numerous shops. Gunmen fired volleys at passing vehicles and pedestrians, in retribution for revenge killings of Muslims following the Sunday church bombings.

Random gunfire prevented emergency medical teams and the Red Cross from doing their jobs on June 18 in Kaduna. An anonymous hospital official in Kaduna said that medical staff had been holed up in a hospital in the capital because of the lack of security. He said, “The morgue is empty now although there are dead bodies on the street. Fighting is still going on in some parts of the city and the streets are totally deserted.”

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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