Boko Haram killings spread terror across West Africa

March 10, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Christianity in AfricaAfrica, March 6, 2015: Last month saw a spate of Boko Haram attacks across north-eastern Nigeria, the massacre of around 90 people in Cameroon, and first-time attacks in Niger and Chad. Apparently outraged by Chadian and African Union decisions to provide military units to combat the scourge of radical Islamism in West Africa, the group is taking its revenge on Christians and on Muslims who do not share their ideology.

In the last week of February alone there were five incidents in Nigeria. On 26 February, a suicide bomber at a bus station in Biu, in Nigeria’s Borno state, killed at least 17 people as he blew himself up. On the same day, 15 people died as a result of bombs thrown from a car at a bus station and the university in the city of Jos, in central Nigeria. Educational facilities are a regular target of Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”.

Just two days earlier, a suicide bomber attempting to board a bus at the Dan-Borno bus station in Potiskum, in Nigeria’s north-eastern Yobe state, killed 17 people; over 30 more were injured. Just hours after the attack, another suicide bomber at the Kano Line bus station in Kano city killed 10 people after detonating the explosives strapped to his body while he got off a bus.

And on 22 February, a young girl thought to be no more than eight years old, detonated the explosives strapped to her body, killing five people just outside a market in Potiskum. This is the third time this year that Boko Haram is suspected to have used children as suicide bombers. Parents in Nigeria are being warned to take extra care of their children when they are outside the home, lest they be given explosive devices as “toys”.

Earlier in the month, Boko Haram struck Niger and Chad for the first time. After African Union countries agreed on 30 January to back a 7,500-strong unit to fight against the insurgency group, Boko Haram retaliated by attacking towns in Niger and Chad on 6 and 13 February respectively.

Christian homes in Niger had been marked with the sign “P52” to identify them for attack. “We never thought that Boko Haram would attack us, because we trust our security forces,” commented a church leader from Niger. The government of Niger invited Christians to participate in a protest against Boko Haram, putting them in a prominent place at the front of the procession.

In northern Cameroon, where the Islamist group has launched numerous attacks, jihadists shot and burned to death around 90 people in a horrific attack on the city of Fotokol on 4 February. A further 500 people were injured as a result of the brutality as around 800 militants burned churches, mosques and surrounding villages. There were at least three other attacks in northern Cameroon in the same month.

Local Christians in Cameroon report that Boko Haram often attacks markets, where militants snatch goods and kidnap young people for recruitment into their ranks. As many as 200 are reported to have been recruited in the town of Kolofata alone in just one month. There are special groups within Boko Haram assigned to kidnapping, with other groups specialising in other tasks such as seizing goods, or trying to convert people to Islam. Militants also raid villages, killing people, stealing cattle, burning corn and destroying churches. More than 100 villages are empty, hundreds of schools have closed, and huge numbers of people have been forced to leave their homes and their livelihoods. All the churches along the border with Nigeria have either closed down or been burnt down.

The Christians are fleeing south or crossing over to Chad. Some Cameroonians have expressed doubts as to whether their armed forces can be effective against Boko Haram, given that the forces deployed come from the north of the country just like the Boko Haram militants they are supposed to be fighting against.

– barnabas

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