By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians are fleeing northern Nigeria where bomb blasts rocked the Bauchi and Kano states over the weekend, killing at least 185 people, including Christians, said rights activists and church officials Monday, January 23.
Militant Islamic group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, claimed responsibility for the multiple bombings and a shooting spree targeting the immigration services, police headquarters and State Security Service (SSS) building in Kano, claiming most reported lives.
The group had threatened to unleash multiple blasts there after one of their cells was uncovered in December 2011, saying they would take action if their people were not released.
In an open letter to Kano’s residents following the weekend bombings, Boko Haram’s spokesman Abul Qaqa reportedly said that only the intervention of un-named Muslim scholars was preventing the group from unleashing an “endless campaign of violence” on the state.
In a statement distributed by rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) the Anglican Bishop of Kano said he had identifying the corpse of a member of his congregation who had been missing since Friday. “The target was the government, but who is the government? It is the people,” the official said.
Elsewhere on Sunday, January 22, bombs were planted at churches in Bauchi including at the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) , in the Railway Area and at the Our Lady of St Lauretto Catholic Church in the Fadama Mada area, which sustained minor damage to their walls. There were no injuries or fatalities reported, as the bombs exploded in the early hours of the morning, Christians said.
On the same day in Tafawa Balewa Town, St Paul’s Anglican Secondary School was partially destroyed by a bomb, according to rights activists.
An attempted attack on a police station was foiled and two of the would-be bombers were reportedly detained and later confessed to the church attacks.
There was also a reported attempted robbery of First Bank, and an attack on a hotel and military checkpoint in the Bununu District. The violence is said to have claimed the lives of two army officers, a deputy superintendent of police and eight civilians, including a child.
Though both Muslims and Christians have been caught up in the bombings and subsequent shootings, “there is unease in the Christian community that they may be directly targeted in the future,” CSW told BosNewsLife.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said “There is no conceivable justification for the mindless spree of brutality that has been unleashed in northern and central Nigeria, and has claimed the lives of so many innocent civilians, Muslim and Christian alike.
It is vital that state and federal officials and security agents maintain a state of alertness and take all necessary measures to end Boko Haram’s reign of terror, while ensuring that the rights of the innocent are protected.”
Boko Haram says it wants to establish a state based on Sharia, or Muslim, law and has ordered Christians to leave northern Nigeria, while urging Muslims in the south to move to northern regions. The violence is a major challenge for Nigeria’s President Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian and southerner, has come under increased pressure to speed up protection for Christians.
Nigeria is 160 million people are roughly equally divided between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian and animist south, according to several estimates.