(ADDS NEW DEATH TOLL FIGURE, CHANGING LEAD, ADDS COMMENT PRESIDENT)
By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militants shouting “Allahu Akbar”, or ‘Allah is great’, carried out coordinated gun and bomb attacks on churches and police stations in northern Nigeria, killing at least 150 people and injuring some 100 others, aid workers and witnesses confirmed Saturday, November 5.
Militant group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, claimed responsibility for what Nigeria’s President leader Goodluck Jonathan described as a “heinous” violence in mainly Damaturu, capital of Yobe state.
Confirmation of the attacks Saturday, November 5, came as frightened mourners tried to leave their homes to begin burying their dead.
Boko Haram, which seeks strict implementation of Shariah, or Islamic law, across the nation of more than 160 million people, pledged more attacks.
The Red Cross aid group and witnesses said fighting began Friday, November 4, around Damaturu, when a car bomb exploded outside a three-story building used as a military office and barracks, with many uniformed security agents dying in the blasts.
Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed told reporters that the “suicide” attackers, driving a black sports utility vehicle, detonated their explosives near the gate of the building, used by the Joint Task Force (JTF), the military unit deployed to curb violence there.
Several other police stations, a bank and up to six churches were also attacked, residents and aid workers said. Among areas targeted by militants was the Jerusalem area, a predominantly Christian neighborhood, according to witnesses.
One resident, Isa Jakusko, was quoted by French News Agency AFP as saying that city had been thrown into chaos. “There have been several bomb explosions and shooting. As I am talking to you there is still fire exchanges between the attackers and security personnel with the attackers shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’,” he reportedly said.
Gunshots were reportedly still heard Saturday, November 5, from different parts of the city with the sky dark with smoke, apparently from burning buildings.
In another part of northern Nigeria, hundreds of youths staged angry protests after gunmen opened fire on a congregation of Christians praying at a village in Kaduna state overnight, witnesses said.
The attack occurred in an area where hundreds of people were killed in violence which erupted after the April election victory of President Jonathan, a Christian, against his closest rival Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim.
Witnesses said the gunmen also attacked the nearby village of Potiskum and city of Maiduguri earlier in the day and engaged in several hours of running gunbattles with security forces, witnesses said.
Elsewhere in northern Nigeria youth protested against a deadly attack on a church in the Tabak Village in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Christian activists told BosNewsLife.
Local youths blocked roads overnight to an attack Thursday, November 3, on a village prayer meeting of the local Catholic Church, that left at least two people dead, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Witnesses reportedly said that gunmen raided the church as the prayer meeting was coming to an end, fired at a congregation consisting mainly of women and children, and escaped into the bush.
“Two women died at the scene, twelve other people were wounded mainly in the arms and legs, and are receiving treatment at St. Louis Hospital in nearby Zonkwa,” CSW explained in a statement to BosNewsLife.
Soon after, gunmen reportedly raided a house in Kurmin-Bi, also near Zonkwa, killing one Christian and injuring another.
The attacks on Tabak Village followes a predawn raid in late October on a police station and bank in Saminaka Town in the same area by suspected members of Boko Haram, who reportedly escaped in the direction of Bauchi State carrying cash and weaponry CSW said.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the organisation’s secretary, the Reverend Yunusa Nmadu condemned the armed attack “on innocent Christian worshipers in the church”, and expressed anger that the raid occurred “in spite of the heavy presence of soldiers in the area”.
He urged authorities to “ensure that the perpetrators of this evil act are fished out and brought to book. Meanwhile we call on all Christians to be calm and prayerful in the face of this new dimension of attack on the Church”.
In September, soldiers and riot police were drafted to the region following an armed attack by Fulani tribesmen in which four people were killed and over ten injured, according to Christian rights activists.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said Thursday’s attack “on an innocent congregation of mostly women and children is deplorable, and the fact it could occur despite a heavy military presence in the area is a cause for great concern.”
He said his group has urged the government to improve secutity as “it is vital that these raids are brought to a halt quickly in order to restore confidence and security to the local population.”
But with more bloodshed reported Saturday, November 5, there was little sign of more security.