JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Authorities suspected Islamic extremist group Boko Haram was responsible for an attack on a Catholic church service in Adamawa state on Sunday (Jan. 26) that reportedly left 45 people dead.
Sources told Morning Star News that 22 bodies were recovered from the church building in Waga Chakawa village, other church members were killed while trying to escape and still more were slain later in nearby bushes after being taken hostage.
Of the 45 people reportedly killed, two were policemen. The total number of those killed who were taking part in the church service was unknown.
One of the survivors, 42-year-old Matthew Apogu, told Morning Star News that Boko Haram Islamists used improvised bombs and guns on the church.
“The gunmen used explosive devices to attack us as the worship service was on, and many of our Christian brethren lost their lives,” he said. “I saw 22 corpses, but some of my relatives who also escaped from the church told me that they saw 25 dead bodies.”
Apogu said the Islamist extremists took some Christians away as hostages.
“We were all scattered by the attackers, and as we escaped those that were not able to escape were taken hostage, especially, women, children, and the elderly,” he said.
The gunmen also burned homes, Apogu said.
The Rev. Raymond Danboyi, a Catholic priest with the Diocese of Yola, told Morning Star News by phone that only 22 deaths of church members had been confirmed.
“Twenty-two of our parishioners died in the attack carried out by gunmen we believe are Boko Haram members,” Danboyi said.
Maina Ularamu, chairman of the Madagali Local Government Council, reportedly said 45 people had been killed, but he later told Morning Star News that the council had yet to determine the total casualty figure.
The attack came as leaders of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) reported that 262 of its members were killed by Boko Haram, and another 12 were kidnapped, last year. Boko Haram gunmen bombed 36 Brethren Churches and burned down 854 houses, they said in an email.
The attacks on its members and churches, the Brethren leaders said, occurred in the states of Adamawa, Borno, Kaduna, and Yobe, all in northern Nigeria.
Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, was also suspected in a bombing attack on a market in Kawuri village, Borno state on Sunday evening (Jan. 26). At least 52 people died and all 300 homes in the village were reportedly burned down. The group also reportedly attacked the village of Wala on Friday (Jan. 24).
Boko Haram, the name residents of Maiduguri, Borno state originally gave the group that calls itself, “The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad” (from the Arabic, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,), has killed thousands of civilians, including hundreds of Christians.
The Nigerian government declared a military state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe in northeastern Nigeria on May 14, 2013. Nigeria outlawed Boko Haram on June 4, declaring their activities illegal and “acts of terrorism,” and the U.S. State Department designated the group as a terrorist organization on Nov. 13.
With some members of the Nigerian group coming from Cameroon, Chad and Niger, Boko Haram has grown into a heavily armed militia with ties to Al Qaeda. The State Department’s 2012 Terrorism report ranked it the second deadliest terrorist group worldwide, after the Taliban.
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