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Edge of Terrorism

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Northern Nigeria Faces Apparent Ethnic Cleansing

January 21st 2012

Nigeria - Nigeria christmas day bomb
Christmas Day, 2011, bombing in Abuja

"I am trying to get in contact with Mgr. John Namanza Niyiring, Bishop of Kano but the lines do not work", reported Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos in central Nigeria. On the evening of January 20, in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, a series of coordinated bomb attacks and armed assaults hit several targets, among which where some police stations.

"Last night, I spoke with the pastor of the church of Our Lady of the Apostles who, over the phone, and told me he was forced to hide because he was under attack. But the information that we have so far are still fragmentary, and we are waiting for confirmation. Telephone lines are interrupted, I do not know if it is due to a technical problem or other causes. The situation is still confusing. We will see how the government reacts to this new attack", said the Archbishop of Jos.

A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano, after a coordinated series of bomb attacks. Nigerian police say at least seven people have been killed in the bombings that targeted police and government offices in the northern city. The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Speaking from Jos, Archbishop Kaigama confirmed that Christians fleeing from the State of Yobe (North Nigeria) are arriving due to recent attacks by the Boko Haram Islamists. "Since Jos is an area where Christians predominate, these people come here to meet with friends and family." Archbishop Kaigama emphasized that "we need to look beyond the religious aspect of this crisis. Every time that Christians and Muslims are killed one should remember that there are evil forces that manipulate religion for their own purposes."

"We need to understand who these forces are. There are many interests that fuel tension and violence in Nigeria. It is amazing how Boko Haram is able to carry out increasingly sophisticated and coordinated attacks not only against the civilian population but also against the agents of the State. These are attacks which are carried out very efficiently and accurately". "Therefore we must look beyond appearances: there exists a sophisticated network that recruits people, trains and gives them weapons to conduct such attacks", concluded the archbishop.

Earlier this month, spokesmen for Boko Haram warned that all Christians were to leave the northern region of oil-rich Nigeria or face violent retribution. Boko Haram made a series of bomb attacks on Christmas Day 2011 and killed scores of victims, mostly Christians. This was followed by protests against President Goodluck Johnson's government when a subsidy of gasoline, diesel, and cooking fuel was scrapped. The government renewed the subsidy, while opposition politicians have launched criticisms of President Johnson's handling of the economy and terrorist threat.

Mimicking the tactics of Al-Qaeda, to which it has been linked, Boko Haram dispatched a suicide bomber who detonated a huge explosion at the office of Kano's Inspector General of Police at about 5:00 p.m. local time on January 20.  Within minutes, blasts could be heard at several other locations throughout the city.  Most of the targets appeared to be police stations. Chaos ensued as residents fled wailing in panic, on foot and in vehicles, with sirens blaring and gunshots echoing around them.  Reporter Salusi Radiu of the Voice of America reported that he heard more than two dozen blasts over a 90-minute period. "It was just a rough estimate, but it was estimated almost 30, about 30 exploded at different police stations.  At some places it was just the bomb that exploded, in other places there were gunshots before the bomb," Radiu said.

Nigerian authorities estimate that scores of people were killed, including the suicide bomber and other attackers who died in gun battles with police.  Witnesses said several police officers and a journalist also died. Kano's emergency coordinator, Abubakar Jibril, told VOA a full casualty count is delayed because of the curfew. "In fact, nobody can tell you the casualties because they are from different points.  We will have to go to different hospitals around before we gather the number of casualties," Jibril said.

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Muslim extremist sect Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means, “Christian education is non-Muslim.”  A spokesman for the group telephoned journalists to say the bombings were in retaliation for the arrest of several Boko Haram members in Kano.

Boko Haram was also blamed for the bomb that went off outside a Catholic church near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day, 2011.  Nearly 40 people were killed in that attack. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had declared a state of emergency in several northern regions after the Christmas Day attacks, but Kano had been relatively free of violence, and was not included in the emergency area.

From VOA and other agencies.

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