Nigeria's Christian community was shocked to learn of plans by the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram for an upsurge in the already deadly violence directed at Christians. Boko Haram, which means 'Western learning is un-Islamic,' has issued a threat to make this June "the bloodiest month for Christians." The Islamic sect had already promised to purge northern Nigeria of Christians as part of its effort to eventually impose Muslim religious law over the entire country. Bombs, armed assaults, and directed killings have been used by Boko Haram to rout Christians while also posing an as yet unresolved challenge to the national government.

Boko Haram claims to have trained some three hundred suicide bombers ready to attack Christians at churches in the states of Plateau and Kaduna (southern Nigeria). On June 17, for example, Boko Haram conducted a series of coordinated car bomb attacks at churches as worshippers gathered in Kaduna. Scores of Christians, and Muslims, were killed by the bombings. Reprisals by Christians ensued in Kaduna, as enraged mobs dragged Muslims from their cars and killed them. Then in the northeastern city of Damaturu, Muslims went on the rampage to avenge the deaths of their co-religionists in Kaduna and elsewhere. The Nigerian army imposed a curfew but fighting continued sporadically, preventing medical teams and emergency personnel from aiding the wounded.

Nigeria's army has struggled to maintain order in the region, while President Goodluck Jonathan has been increasingly criticized for failing to bring order.  Boko Haram, for its part, says it has recruited the sons and daughters of Muslims killed during the most recent spate of inter-religious mayhem, while it is arming them with weapons and bombs manufactured in Mauritania and Somalia. Boko Haram has been linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Boko Haram has announced further attacks on government buildings in the states of Kano, Kaduna, Yobe and Gombe, as well as a forthcoming attack on the Federal Capital territory, Abuja, to demonstrate  "the Nigerian security forces will not be able to stop us."

Curfews have been utilized by Nigerian authorities in an effort to restore order, as in the case of the states of Kaduna and Yobe, with varying success. The Christian churches are asking for more protection in five states in northern and central Nigeria, where much of the Muslim terrorist activity has been focused. In a statement sent to Fides, the NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), called on the authorities "to respond to these threats, strengthening the protection of innocent civilians, to defuse any risk of retaliation."

According to the Fides news service, a local non-governmental organization reported "Boko Haram has once again shown its links with Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Shabaab militia in Somalia," therefore "it is a phenomenon that goes beyond the borders of Nigeria: International cooperation is essential to destroy sponsors, supporters and the training network."





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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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