By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Dozens of people were killed in northeastern Nigeria when suspected Islamic militants sprayed gunfire at worshippers and torched four churches Sunday, June 29, near the town of Chibok, where more than 200 Christian schoolgirls were kidnapped in April, local residents and survivors said.
At least 30 people were known to have died, but Christians warned “scores” of worshippers and other civilians were believed to have been killed in Sunday’s attacks in Kwada and Kautikari villages.
Bodies were reportedly still found in bushes where people tried to escape the gunfire.
“They killed dozens of people and burned houses after attacking worshippers,” survivor Mallam Yahi told The Associated Press news agency by telephone from Chibok town, to which he escaped.
Local Christians identified three of the four destroyed churches as the Protestant Church of Christ in
Nigeria, the Pentecostal Deeper Life Bible Church and the Church of the Brethren, or EYN church.
The last was started by American missionaries from Illinois in the 1920s.
Sunday’s attacks were linked to Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is sinful’, which has been fighting
for a strict Islamic state.
The violence came while the capital, Abuja, was on high alert following a bomb blast at a crowded shopping centre which killed at least 21 people and wounded many others on Wednesday, June 25.
Witnesses said at the time that body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in Abuja’s upmarket Wuse 11 suburb.
That blast came as Nigerians were preparing to watch their country’s Super Eagles play Argentina at the World Cup in Brazil. Many shops at the mall have television screens.
And an explosion at a brothel in the northeastern city of Bauchi killed at least 11 people and injured dozens more, with Boko Haram militants suspected of carrying out the bombing, officials said.
However Christians have been among those singled out in attacks, after Boko Haram ordered them to leave Nigeria’s northern regions, rights activists said.
“The latest attack by Boko Haram on four churches and those innocently attending Sunday services inside once again affirms the religious motivation of this group’s heinous crimes against the Nigerian people,” said Cameron Thomas, the regional manager for Africa of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
Security forces of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, have been criticized for not doing enough to prevent more bloodshed. Jonathan has promised to improve security in key areas.
Following Sunday’s attacks, police spokesman Gideon Jubrin said “bad communications have kept them from reaching the nearest security post at Chibok.”
Local residents complained that after distress calls from Kwada villagers, security personnel “just went and got a hiding place in the bush.”
Police officials did not confirm those allegations.
Yet, “For years, the Christian population of north Nigeria has faced a devastating offensive by Islamic militants that has yet to be effectively countered,” added ICC’s Thomas.
Islamic attacks in Nigeria have killed at least two thousand people this year alone.
“Today, the bloodied soil of Kwada and Kautikari villages serve as a heart-rending cry for greater action to ensure the safety of Christians wishing to exercise their right to practice their beliefs free from fear of retribution at the barrel of gun or trigger of an explosive,” Thomas told BosNewsLife in a statement.