Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria leave 52 dead

By Aminu Abubakar and Briana Duggan, CNN
December 29, 2015

Kano, Nigeria (CNN) Attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants have left more than 50 people dead and as many as 114 others wounded in the northeastern Nigerian cities of Maiduguri and Madagali in the past 24 hours, according to residents and Nigerian officials.

Three young female suicide bombers detonated explosives -- two of them together at a market in Madagali Monday morning, killing 30 people, a local official said, and one at a checkpoint in Maiduguri, where one person died.
Sunday evening in Maiduguri, Nigerian troops battled armed Boko Haram fighters trying to enter the city, fighting that left at least 21 people dead and 91 wounded, according to Mohammed Kanar, head of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The Nigerian troops had spotted a group of armed Boko Haram fighters trying to cross a trench to get into the Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri and opened fire on them, said Babakura Kolo, a vigilante assisting the military in fighting Boko Haram.

That city has been fortified with trenches to prevent infiltration by Boko Haram.

"Some of the insurgents managed to cross into Jiddari Polo and engaged soldiers in battles with guns and explosives," said Usman Bala, another vigilante assisting the military.

Resident Madu Goni said the fighting lasted for almost two hours.

"This forced us to abandon our homes in fear," Goni said.

Hours later, on Monday morning, a teenage female suicide bomber killed one person and wounded seven others in an attack on a checkpoint in the Maiduguri suburb of Kushari, authorities said.

"The suicide bomber blended with the crowd and detonated her explosives," explained a Kushari resident who wished to remain anonymous for fear of Boko Haram reprisals.

Two other residents corroborated his account.

The later attacks in Madagali, with two young female suicide bombers, left 30 dead and at least 16 wounded, according to a local government official who asked not to be named.

Brig. Gen. Victor Ezugwu, the military chief in Adamawa state, confirmed the twin suicide blasts to reporters but gave no further details.

Adamawa state borders Borno state, a Boko Haram stronghold. The militant group has frequently attacked Madagali and in August 2014 briefly captured the town, forcing residents to flee to the state capital of Yola, 225 kilometers south (140 miles).

10 generals guilty of arming Boko Haram

June 3, 2014

KADUNA, Nigeria (AP) — Ten generals and five other senior military officers have been found guilty in courts-martial of providing arms and information to Boko Haram extremists, several Nigerian newspapers said Tuesday, though the military insisted there was no truth in the reports.
They follow months of allegations from politicians and soldiers who told The Associated Press that some senior officers were helping the Islamic extremists and that some rank-and-file soldiers even fight alongside the insurgents and then return to army camps. They have said that information provided by army officers has helped insurgents in ambushing military convoys and in attacks on army barracks and outposts in their northeastern stronghold.
Leadership newspaper quoted one officer saying that four other officers, in addition to the 15, were found guilty of "being disloyal and for working for the members of the sect."
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, who last week denied reports saying senior officers were being investigated, reiterated in a statement on Tuesday that defense headquarters "wishes to state once again categorically that there is no truth whatsoever in the report."
He called it a "falsehood" concocted by those who "appear hell-bent on misleading Nigerians and the international community to give credence to the negative impression they are so keen to propagate about the Nigerian military."

Nigeria's military often denies substantiated reports, such as on extrajudicial killings of civilians and detainees. It is accused of such gross human rights violations that the U.S. efforts to help in the rescue of nearly 300 abducted schoolgirls have been limited by U.S. law restricting sharing of some types of information and technology with abusive security forces.

The alleged sabotage by senior officers could explain the military's failure to curb a 5-year-old Islamic uprising by Boko Haram that has killed thousands despite a year-long state of emergency in the northeast.
Boko Haram has attracted international condemnation and U.N. sanctions since its April 15 abduction of more than 300 schoolgirls, of whom 272 remain captive.
Nigerian activists pressing the government to rescue the schoolgirls filed a complaint Tuesday against a police ban on protests.
"We filed a complaint that the police don't have any right to stop people from expressing themselves," said community leader Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the town from which the girls were abducted.
The protests have "degenerated" and are "now posing a serious security threat," Abuja police commissioner Joseph Mbu said in a statement Monday banning all protests in the capital related to the topic.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, said such a ban violates basic rights under the Nigerian constitution.
However, Nigerian police on Tuesday said they had not ordered a ban on peaceful assemblies or protests in Nigeria.
"The Police only issued advisory notice, enjoining citizens to apply caution in the said rallies," the statement said. "Citizens are strongly advised to reconsider their positions on the issues of rallies and protests" given the current threats by militants.
The kidnapping crisis has highlighted Nigeria's failure to curb Boko Haram's uprising.
Leadership newspaper on Tuesday quoted military officers saying the 15 allegedly found guilty of providing arms to Boko Haram are among many more being tried at divisional level. The verdicts are being referred to defense headquarters in Abuja, the capital, where the fate of the officers will be decided, the newspaper said. The officers it quoted spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to give information to reporters.
President Goodluck Jonathan said last year that he believed that some members of the military and even of his own government, including some Cabinet ministers, sympathized with Boko Haram or belonged to the group. Jonathan in January fired his entire military command and weeks later replaced the defense minister.

His government and military have been harshly criticized for lack of action that has led to the schoolgirls' prolonged captivity. Defense chief Air Marshal Alex Badeh said last week the military knows where they are being held but fears to use force as it could get the girls killed. Jonathan is under increasing pressure to make a deal with the insurgents, who are demanding he free detained fighters in return for the girls.
Associated Press reporter Maram Mazen in Lagos, Nigeria contributed to this report.

Christian Leaders in Nigeria Call Bauchi Violence Premeditated

Numerous weapons and mercenaries point to plans awaiting a triggering incident, they say.

By Obed Minchakpu

TAFAWA BALEWA, Nigeria, – Christian leaders in Bauchi state said religious violence here sparked by a row over a billiards table on Jan. 27 bore signs that Muslim extremists were prepared for a large-scale slaughter of Christians.

Initially authorities said only 18 people were killed after sectarian violence erupted in the areas of Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro, where there are large Christian populations in predominantly Muslim Bauchi state in northern Nigeria. Since then, estimates have ranged wildly from 25 to 96 people killed over a three-day period starting Jan. 27, with Christian leaders asserting that Muslim extremists used the billiards table incident as a pretext for unleashing attacks with a stockpile of weapons hidden in mosques.

As early as Feb. 1, Bauchi Commissioner of Police Mohammed Indabawa said at a press conference that 25 bodies had been recovered in a joint security operation in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro, with 38 people arrested. Shortly thereafter, a local legislator in the Bauchi House of Assembly, Aminu Tukur, told journalists that 31 bodies had been recovered and were buried in the area.

Subsequently Luka Chongda, chairman of the Sayawa Development Association, a community Non-Governmental Organization in Tafawa Balewa, reportedly said 96 people had died in the violence. He cited data collated from affected areas in both Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa four days after the Jan. 27 incident.

Christian leaders in Tafawa Balewa told Compass that triggering incident – in which a Muslim was said to have burned a billiards table belonging to a Christian, prompting youths from Christian families to burn mosques and Muslim homes – led to the emergence of Muslim weapons caches and Islamist mercenaries. Islamists had made preparations for attacks in the areas with large Christian populations, the Christian leaders said, and were awaiting a pretext for carrying them out.

The Rev. Ibrahim Ezekiel of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Tafawa Balewa told Compass that Muslims in Bauchi state have tried to eliminate the Christian communities in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro since violence first erupted in 1991.

“The Muslims have been attacking us, and the government of Bauchi state knows this,” Ezekiel said. “Yet the government has given these Muslims the backing to attack us. They want to exterminate the Christian communities here, and that is the reason they are supporting the attacks on us.”

Ezekiel, pastor of a COCIN congregation in Maryam, a suburb of Tafawa Balewa, said that area Muslims “used a lot of weapons to attack our people” that were stockpiled in mosques. Apart from the use of guns and other weapons to attack Christians, Ezekiel said area Islamists brought in Muslim mercenaries.

“They brought in mercenaries to attack us,” he said. “They label Christians here as infidels who must be dealt with. The Muslims are the aggressors – they killed our people and burned their houses. Christians who were helpless had no choice than to fight back and defend their families.”

Armed Muslims as young as 15 years old shot Christians they encountered, Ezekiel said. Christian youths seeking revenge for the billiards table incident stoked the violence until security forces could contain them and their Muslim counterparts; the pastor said 47 Christians have been arrested, with 27 of them charged.

The violence that erupted in the only two local council areas with large Christian populations in Bauchi state led to significant property destruction that is as yet unknown in monetary terms. In addition, according to community leader Chongda, the violence displaced 800 families, with many of those yet to return.

Among Christians in Tafawa Balewa whose bodies have been recovered and buried are Pastor Bitrus Dangana of the Evangelical Church Winning All; Haruna Ayuba; Dima Apollos; Promise Isaac; Mama Likita Dadi; and Irimiya Mainama. Also killed were Christians identified only as Emmanuel in the Sabon Layi area of Tafawa Balewa; Godiya; and Gambo, a butcher in Maryam.

Abubakar Adamu, an official of the Red Cross Society in Bauchi, confirmed that the incident had displaced about 5,000 persons. The Red Cross was treating many of the wounded and burned, he said.

Ramat Kure of Maryam village told Compass that the violence in Tafawa Balewa was the fourth outbreak since 1991.

“The religious crisis in the area has remained unresolved because the Christian community is being oppressed by Muslims in the state,” he said. “The incessant religious conflicts in the area are as a result of deliberate policy of marginalization and persecution targeted at Christians by the Muslim political leaders in the state.”

Kure said he witnessed the killing of 10 Christians in Tafawa Balewa on Jan. 27.

Areas hit by the violence were Angwan Sarki village, Angwan Madaki, Arewa, Sabon Layi, and Bauchi-Dass Road. Muslims reportedly barricaded the Bauchi Dass Highway, pulling dozens of Christians from their vehicles and killing them.

Pastor Yunnana Yusuf of the COCIN Centre in Tafawa Balewa said he was in his home within the church compound on Jan. 27 when he heard shouting around the market square.

“I came out only to see people throwing stones at each other and, on inquiring, I was told that there was a fight going on between Muslims and Christians,” he told Compass. “In no time, I heard gunshots. As I came out, I saw one Alhaji Maigida and another Muslim by the name of Alhaji Maishayi, about a hundred meters away, distributing guns to some Muslims, and they began shooting. Instantly, I saw three Christians being shot. It was this that triggered the incident, and within a short time, the entire town and surrounding villages were attacked and razed by Muslim attackers.”

The dispute between the Muslim billiards player and the Christian pool table owner was reportedly settled by mediation of area elders on Jan. 26, but Muslims later burned the table, prompting Christian youths to burn 50 houses and five mosques, according to police commissioner Indabawa.


Vatican says pope saddened about violence against Nigerian Christians

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged security officers to restore peace and the rule of law in Nigeria after violence against Christians left up to 50 people dead, including a Catholic priest.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, said in a telegram sent to church and government officials in Nigeria that the pope was "saddened to learn of the tragic consequences of the recent violent protests in northern Nigeria."

A Muslim protest against a series of European cartoons offensive to Islam, originally published in Denmark, proceeded peacefully Feb. 18 in the city of Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria's Borno state.

But after the demonstration, armed men took to the streets, setting afire churches, homes and businesses owned by Christians. Some 50 people, reportedly all Christians, were killed in the blazes or by their attackers, said Bishop Matthew Ndagoso of Maiduguri.

The papal telegram, which the Vatican released to journalists Feb. 21, said the pope was praying for all those affected by the violence, especially those who had been killed and their loved ones.

The pope made special mention of Father Michael Gajere, the Nigerian priest who died inside a burning parish compound after staying behind to save a group of altar boys from attackers.

The pope called on all those "involved in providing security ... to ensure peace and to promote the rule of law for which all people of good will long," the telegram said.

Speaking to Catholic News Service by phone Feb. 21 from Maiduguri, Bishop Ndagoso said the church and local Christians are questioning why no adequate security was provided for the Feb. 18 demonstration.

He said there was "no visible police presence" when fires started in different parts of the city as soon as demonstrators dispersed from the city's main square at 10 a.m.

Government "agencies gave permission for this demonstration, but they know demonstrations in our country often turn violent, and so they should have taken adequate security measures," he said.

He said police only came on the scene "after the damage had been done. To us, this shows the complicity on the part of the government."

The bishop said in addition to those killed, hundreds were injured, and 40 church buildings were destroyed. Among them were four Catholic churches and the bishop's house.

"My house is burned completely down, even the walls have fallen down," Bishop Ndagoso said. He said he was away at a seminar the morning the violence broke out, "otherwise I would have been caught there" in the burning home.

Father Gajere was the diocesan justice and peace director and helped dig wells and build dams for the surrounding Muslim communities, the bishop said. Born locally in 1964, the priest was ordained in 1992 and always worked in the same diocese.

Bishop Ndagoso said the priest was with about eight altar boys inside the rectory when the church next door was set ablaze. The priest faced the attackers as they stormed the rectory, and he urged them to not cause anyone any harm, said the bishop.

"When he realized the flames were closing in, he told the kids to run and they jumped the wall" surrounding church compound, the bishop told CNS. The priest stayed behind "to persuade the attackers to do nothing, but instead he paid the supreme price" with his death.

"The situation is still very tense. Even though people are going about their business, there is an uneasy calm," he said.

While some have suggested criminals or local hoodlums were responsible for transforming the peaceful demonstration into an inferno, Bishop Ndagoso said one "cannot rule out religious motives."

"It has clearly religious undertones, because why would they only burn Christian businesses, homes and churches?" he asked.

The northern Nigerian state of Borno is more than 60 percent Muslim. There are about a half million Christians in a state of 3.5 million people, the bishop said.

He said the government listed the official death toll at 15 in an effort to minimize the severity of the incident and prevent outbreaks of retaliatory violence in the city and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the apostolic nuncio in Nigeria, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, told the Vatican missionary news agency, Fides, that he believes there was "no specific hatred against Catholics in Nigeria" and that the latest violence "had little to do with religion."

He said there have been tensions between Muslims and all Christians, not just Catholics, but that political unrest may have been the trigger in Maiduguri, since protesters were also contesting a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, to run for a third term.