x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Boko Haram claim Nigeria church attacks

Islamist group Boko Haram claimed a suicide bombing and a shooting at two churches in Nigeria yesterday which killed five people.

JOS, NIGERIA // Islamist group Boko Haram claimed a suicide bombing and a shooting at two churches in Nigeria yesterday which killed five people.

“We are responsible for the suicide attack on a church in Jos and also another attack on another church in Biu,” a purported spokesman for the group told reporters in a phone conference. “We launched these attacks to prove the Nigerian security wrong and to debunk their claim that we have been weakened by the military crackdown.”

Two people were killed and an unspecified number injured when gunmen attacked a church in Biu, 180 kilometres from the Borno State capital of Maiduguri, said Victor Ebhaleme, a spokesman for the military’s joint task force. The worshippers belonged to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, he said.

The area where the attack took place has been cordoned off and “a serious manhunt for the terrorists is taking place,” Mr Ebhaleme said.

The military prevented a separate attack by the group and recovered arms and bomb-making materials, he said, without giving further details.

A suicide bomber killed three people and left 41 others “seriously wounded” in a separate attack at St Barnabas Church in the Rukuba area of Jos, the capital of central Plateau State, said Dipo Ayeni, the commissioner of police. The bomber drove a car and was dressed in a military uniform, he said.

Nigeria faces a growing wave of sectarian violence carried out by Boko Haram – a movement that wants to impose strict Islamic law in the country, and whose name means “western education is sacrilege” in Hausa.

The sect has been blamed for killing more than 560 people this year alone. The group’s targets have included churches, police stations and other security buildings, often attacked by suicide car bombers across northern Nigeria.

The sect most recently claimed responsibility for the drive-by killing on Tuesday of a retired deputy inspector-general of police and two other officers in Nigeria’s largest northern city of Kano.

Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, is divided between a largely Muslim north and Christian south.

Boko Haram attacks have inflamed tensions between the two religions, though many in the faiths live peacefully with each other and intermarry.

In Jos, a city in Nigeria’s fertile central belt, religious rioting and violence has killed thousands in the last decade.

* Bloomberg News, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse