By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigeria’s feared Islamic Boko Haram group has ordered Christians in the country’s north to leave within three days or face more deadly violence, while also threatening to confront security forces sent to quell the unrest in the region.
“We are…giving a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the northern part of Nigeria to move away,” he explained, referring to Christians,” said Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Monday, January 2.
He added that his fighters are ready to confront soldiers sent to the area under a state of emergency declared in parts of four states by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian.
“We find it pertinent to state that soldiers will only kill innocent Muslims in the local government areas where the state of emergency was declared,” Saturday December 31, the spokesman stressed. “We would confront them squarely to protect our brothers.”
Human rights activists have expressed concerns about the ultimatum, saying many Christians born and raised in the north have nowhere else to go.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin: has been linked to several attacks on Christians, most notably the bombings on Christmas Day that killed as many as 49 people, according to new figures, most of them at a Catholic church as services were ending.
Last week Christians were seen mourning their dead at the bloodstained St. Theresa Church in the town of Madalla, near capital Abuja. The priest of St. Theresa’s, Isaac Achi, reportedly told the crowd that the Christmas Day attack made him really cry for the first time in his life.
“I’ve never cried before, but yesterday, I cried,” he said. “This morning, I cried, but with all of you around today, I’ll not cry again. Yesterday more than 40 army men protected me while I slept.”
Two other churches, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in the volatile, religiously mixed town of Jos, and another church in the town of Gadaka in the northern state were also targeted on December 25, with news agencies quoting residents as saying there were many wounded there.
Nigeria’s close to 160 million people are divided between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south. “Qaqa said Boko Haram wished “to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the north,” raising concerns about more tensions.
“The President had never visited any of the theaters were Muslims were massacred,” the spokesman added naming areas where “scores of Muslims” were allegedly killed in post-election riots in April.
While Boko Haram has been carrying out increasingly deadly attacks for months, including an August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that left 25 dead, the Christmas violence sparked intense fear and outrage.
It also led to warnings from some Christian leaders that they would defend themselves if such attacks continued, raising deep concern, news reports said.
BosNewsLife learned however that main Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) along with the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and state governors stressed the importance of prayers for “peace and unity” in Africa’s most populous nation.
Boko Haram has made clear however that it wants to establish a state based on Sharia, or Islamic, law.