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Boko Haram is blamed for new wave of violence

23 May 2014


Heartache: the aftermath of the bomb attack in Jos, on Tuesday

Heartache: the aftermath of the bomb attack in Jos, on Tuesday

BOKO HARAM, the Nigerian Islamist militants who kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month, appears to be behind a fresh wave of attacks in Nigeria, in which at least 129 people have been killed.

Two bombs were detonated in the city of Jos, in central Nigeria, on Tuesday, killing at least 118 people. Although Boko Haram did not immediately claim responsibility, the bombing echoed similar attacks in the past by the group.

The blasts tore through the business district and killed many who were shopping at a market, including children. Jos is far from the northern strongholds of Boko Haram, and last suffered attacks when a series of bombs were set off at churches on Christmas Day in 2011 (News, 30 December 2011).

Tensions between Christians and Muslims flared up in the city after the attack, and some Christian youths set up checkpoints and attempted to march on a Muslim quarter.

The Archbishop of Jos, Dr Benjamin Kwashi, said on Tuesday that both Christians and Muslims were among the dead, including the wife of a close friend of his.

On Monday, a suicide bomber killed four people in the northern town of Kano, including a girl aged 12. Witnesses described a car exploding in the predominantly Christian district of Sabon Gari, in a street filled with restaurants and bars.

Another Boko Haram attack took place in the northern village of Alagarno on Wednesday. Boko Haram fighters reportedly spent several hours ransacking the village, and have been accused of killing up to 17 people. The village is close to Chibok, where the schoolgirls were taken.

Despite wide-ranging international efforts to locate the girls, they are still missing. A UK surveillance plane that had been sent to Nigeria to help has been forced to land in Senegal for repairs.

The United States is also flying aircraft and unmanned drones over Nigeria to search for the girls, and has shared satellite imagery with the Nigerian authorities.

On Friday of last week, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, said that unless Nigerians rose up to stop Boko Haram, the militants would destroy the country. While delivering his presidential address at the Church of Nigeria Synod, Archbishop Okoh said that Christians and Muslims alike were at risk from the Islamist extremists.

Earlier, Anglican teachers in the diocese of the Niger were told to observe five days of prayer and fasting for the abducted schoolgirls. The call came from the president of the Anglican Teachers Association, at its annual convention in Onitsha, southern Nigeria.

In London, a prayer vigil for the safe return of the girls was held on Monday evening, attended by 300 Nigerian pastors. It was organised by Nigerian Christian leaders in the UK, and endorsed by the National Day of Prayer and Worship organisation.

The convener of the Day of Prayer, Jonathan Oloyede, said: "We earnestly call on Christians everywhere to come and pray for the Chibok kidnapped schoolgirls, their families, and Nigeria."

African leaders who had gathered at an international summit in Paris on Saturday joined the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, in declaring a "total war" on Boko Haram. Some other leaders, including the President of France, François Hollande, said that the group was linked to al-Qaeda, and urged African nations to co-operate more on anti-terrorism operations.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, speaking before the summit, said that the Nigerian security forces were not well-equipped to cope with the Boko Haram insurgency, and that Britain would provide military advisers to help.

More than 1000 people have been killed by the militants this year, despite large numbers of soldiers being deployed to northern Nigeria since a state of emergency was declared a year ago, in the areas where Boko Haram is most active.

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