Saturday 24 March 2018

Radical Muslim group admits to Christmas Eve bomb carnage

Ahmed Mohammed in Jos, Nigeria

A radical Muslim sect has claimed responsibility for the Christmas Eve bombings and church attacks in Nigeria that killed at least 38 people.

Last night the group who carried out the attack in Jos also threatened to unleash a new wave of attacks on Christians to avenge local violence against Muslims. Sectarian violence has left more than 500 people dead this year in the divided region where Jos is located.

Police had already blamed the Boko Haram group for some of the deaths on Friday, but the online statement attributed to the group was the first solid connection between the violence in the two cities.

"Therefore we will continue with our attacks on disbelievers and their allies and all those who help them," the statement said.

It was not immediately possible to contact members of the sect, which had not previously used the website where the statement appeared.

The head of national police Yemi Ajayi also said yesterday that authorities were still investigating.

Two bombs went off near a large market in Jos where people were doing last-minute Christmas shopping on Friday. A third hit the mainly Christian area of Jos, while the fourth was near a road that leads to the city's main mosque.

Officials initially said at least 32 died from the blasts, and police have not updated that figure publicly.


An official with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) told journalists that he had counted 80 deaths, but the regional NEMA co-ordinator, Alhassan Aliyu Danjuma, said only three hospitals were visited.

It was not verified whether the patients counted were in fact blast victims, he said.

That same day, two churches were attacked in the northern city of Maiduguri, about 320 miles (520km) away, killing at least six people.

Nigerian authorities blamed Boko Haram, and said a Baptist pastor and two choir members preparing for a late-night carol service were among the victims.

The radical Muslim sect is also known by a much longer Arabic name, which means "the organisation of followers of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and champions of Islam and holy wars".

It was thought to be vanquished in 2009 after Nigeria's military crushed its mosque into concrete shards, and its leader was arrested and died in police custody.

But now, a year later, Maiduguri and surrounding villages again live in fear of the group, whose members have assassinated police and local leaders and engineered a massive prison break, officials say.

Western diplomats worry that the sect is catching the attention of al-Qa'ida's North Africa branch.

Nigeria, a country of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. Jos is in the nation's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.

Irish Independent

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