JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Two seminary students serving as pastors at a church bombed yesterday in Jaji, in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, were among 11 Christians killed in the suicide attack, the school’s president said.
The Rev. Titus Sambo and Israel Olaleye, students at Baptist Theological Seminary in Kaduna, died in the dual bomb blasts at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, a military barracks church serving military personnel, their families and civilians in Jaji, about 25 miles from Kaduna City, said the Rev. Dr. Rueben Ishaya Chuga, president of the seminary. Besides the 11 deaths, at least 30 people were reported injured.
“If it has gone to the extent that military institutions or installations can be bombed, then nowhere is safe,” Chuga told Morning Star News. “This clearly shows that the Nigerian government is incapable of curbing these terror attacks.”
The bombers were suspected members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group, also suspected of bombing another Kaduna church a month ago, on Oct. 28, killing seven Christians.
Yesterday’s attack came as the congregation was leaving the morning service. Officials said the perpetrators parked a car loaded with explosives on church grounds, which detonated 10 minutes after a bomb-laden bus exploded as it crashed into the church building.
Chuga said the attack suggests that the Nigerian military has been infiltrated by Boko Haram members, but sources told Nigerian news portal Leadership that security guards at the gate were tricked when the bombers said they were bringing in food and equipment for church celebrations.
Brig.-Gen. Bola Koleosho, spokesman of the military staff college, said in a press statement that 11 worshippers were killed and 30 others were injured, though Leadership reported sources as saying as many as 20 died in the 1,200-member church. Both the dead and injured were taken to military hospitals in Kaduna and Jaji.
Jaji is located midway between Kaduna and Zaria, two cities that have witnessed suicide bombings in recent months. Besides the Oct. 28 bombing of St. Rita’s Catholic Church in the Malali area of Kaduna City, in Zaria suicide bombers on June 17 carried out attacks on the Evangelical Church Winning All in the Wusasa area of the city, killing at least 24, and the Catholic Christ the King Cathedral in the Sabon Gari area, killing at least 16. In Kaduna, the group bombed a Pentecostal church, Shalom Church, where at least 10 died. Boko Haram, which seeks to impose strict sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, took responsibility for the June attacks.
Boko Haram has targeted churches, state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government.
The Command and Staff College in Jaji trains senior military officers from the Nigerian Armed Forces, including the Nigerian Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. Military officers from other African countries also receive military training at the institution.
Church Leaders Targeted
The suicide bombing came days after the president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) told pastors at COCIN’s General Church Council that 12 of its pastors in northern Nigeria have been murdered in 12 years, including a retired pastor slain a few days before the church official spoke.
The Rev. Soja Bewarang said in an address to clergy at the 81st General Church Council, held throughout last week at COCIN’s headquarters in Jos, that Islamic terrorists including Boko Haram members killed the pastors. The attacks took place in Plateau, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno and Bauchi states.
On the Sunday (Nov. 18) before the council met, gunmen killed the Rev. Elisha Kabura of COCIN in Borno state as he prepared to leave for church with his family in Maiduguri, Bewarang noted as he appealed to the Nigerian government to contain the violence.
“As a church we call upon the federal government to take more serious proactive measures to institute peace and security of lives in Kaduna, Yobe, Borno, and Bauchi States,” Bewarang said.
Though Bewarang mentioned 12 pastors killed, COCIN headquarters provided 14 names of pastors killed in the past 12 years. Five were killed in Borno state, five in Bauchi state and four in Plateau state, according to a list obtained from Elizabeth Salami, editor of COCIN newspaper the Light Bearer. Yakubu Sabo Kwagshar, Toma Ngezehe Ngatawa, Albert Maga, Elisha Ali Kabura, and David Usman were killed in Borno State; Ishaya Kada and his wife, Sylvia, Caleb Maina, Emmanuel Yelda, Markus Kele and Irmiya Maigida were killed in Bauchi state; and, in Plateau state, Bitrus Adoro Manjang, Samson Bukar, Musa Bot, and James Lewat lost their lives to Islamic extremists.
COCIN has congregations in 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states, mostly in the north, with an estimated membership of about 2 million.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north. But those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
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