JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Suspected Boko Haram Islamists killed nine Christians guarding a church service in Borno state on Sunday (June 1), hours before a bombing of a Christian area in neighboring Adamawa state resulted in at least 48 deaths, Christian leaders said.
In Borno, at least 10 gunmen attacked a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN) congregation during worship in Attagara village, near Gwoza town on northeastern Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, they said. The gunmen killed nine EYN members volunteering as a security team, area Christian leaders told Morning Star News, and a local witness reportedly said area men mobilized, killed four of the Boko Haram attackers and arrested three others.
One area Christian leader said the attackers were a small part of 200 assailants who have invaded Attagara and other predominantly Christian villages around Gwoza the past two weeks, destroying homes and churches.
“Our church in Attagara was attacked also on Sunday,” said Dr. Rebecca Dali, adding that church members there and in surrounding villages sent distress calls to her husband, Samuel Dali, who is president of the EYN. “There have been 24-hour-a-day attacks on Christian communities of Attagara, Hawul, and Gwoshe around the Gwoza mountains.”
She said her husband made efforts to contact military officers in the Borno capital of Maiduguri but received no positive response.
“My husband eventually contacted the presidency in Abuja, and a military helicopter was sent to the area to contain the attack on these Christian villages,” Dali said. “Reports we received from the area show that the soldiers drafted there to repel attackers could not get to the villages on claims that they did not receive orders from their command headquarters in Maiduguri to fight the insurgents.”
Recent attacks on Attagara, Gwoshe, Hawul, and other Gwoza villages have resulted in the destruction of 36 church buildings in the area, Dali said. “The Boko Haram Islamists have destroyed 36 churches in Gwoza area, including that of Attagara attacked on Sunday,” she said. “We now have only two churches that have not been affected.”
Paul Gadzama, a native of Borno state who is director of Relief, Empowerment And Development Missions (READ Missions), said the attacks on the Attagara EYN church and other villages in Gwoza are part of a strategy to eliminate Christians.
“Boko Haram gunmen have continued to attack these areas inhabited by Christians with the sole aim of pushing them out to enable establish an Islamic country,” Gadzama told Morning Star News in Jos. “So far they have taken over so many villages, forcing our people to flee to Cameroon.”
Titus Pona, chairman of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, told Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper that the Gwoza area is more than 80 percent Christian. The Nigerian Army is reportedly ill-equipped and/or unwilling to thwart terrorist attacks, and Pona reportedly said that after many Christians were killed during the attacks of the last two weeks, villagers trying to defend themselves killed 37 Boko Haram rebels on Sunday (June 1).
Explosion in Adamawa
Suspected members of Boko Haram on Sunday (June 1) also bombed a predominantly Christian area in Mubi, Adamawa state, with casualties higher than official figures, according to area Christians.
Explosives detonated at 6 p.m. in the Kabang area of Mubi, in northeastern Nigeria, killed and wounded patrons at a bar for viewing televised soccer as well as people at a nearby soccer game, said Dali, a resident of Mubi.
“There were some of our church members who were in the vicinity of the bomb attack, and they said at least 48 persons were killed in the attack,” she said. “Those who died are mostly Christians. Some Christian youths were also playing soccer near the bombed area, and they were affected by the bombing.”
Other witnesses reportedly said at least 45 people died in the blast, which also damaged several shops.
EYN is headquartered in Mubi.
“Our church, EYN, lost two of her members in the bomb attack, and they are one John, a member of the New Life for All Gospel Team [evangelistic outreach] in the church, and Miss Godiya John, a member of the Girls Fellowship in the church,” Dali told Morning Star News. “As I speak to you now [11 a.m. Monday, June 2], their funeral service is going on in the church.”
The government figure for those killed was 18, according to Director of Defense Information Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade. Initially he reportedly made reference to the bomb exploding at a soccer field, but at a press conference with other security officials on Monday (June 2) he referred to it as an explosion at the TV-viewing bar as he advised soccer fans to be vigilant during the upcoming World Cup. Olukolade reportedly said 19 people were wounded from the blast, though witnesses said dozens were injured.
Near the site of the explosion is the headquarters of the Special Operations Battalion of the Nigerian Army that is trying to counteract Boko Haram violence, though soldiers are reportedly advised not to frequent the bar after 4 p.m. It was not clear at press time how many of the victims were soldiers.
Witnesses reportedly said explosives were hidden in a pair of three-wheeled vehicles outside the bar. The military’s Olukolade reportedly said two suspects were arrested, but that one of them later died in a hospital from injuries sustained in the attack.
Adamawa Gov. Murtala Nyako described the bomb attack as “barbaric, repugnant and unacceptable.”
Mubi and surrounding areas have been under attack by Boko Haram Islamists fighting to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria; the rebels seek more strict enforcement of sharia in the country’s northern states, where it is already in place applicable to the region’s Muslim population.
In the recent attacks, five members of the EYN church were killed in Saminaka village, near Mubi, while nine other church members were killed in nearby Njilang village, Dali said.
“In these attacks, houses of our church members were destroyed, and they were displaced, as many of them were forced out of their villages,” she said.
Boko Haram (“Western education is a sin”), 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 since 2009.
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.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. 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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