Boko Haram leader defends attacks

THE PUNCH Newspaper

The leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist militants has defended recent attacks on Christians, saying they are revenge for killings of Muslims.

In his first video message, posted on YouTube, Abubakar Shekau referred to attacks on Muslims in recent years in several parts of northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram militants attacked several churches on Christmas Day, killing dozens of worshippers.

This has led to some reprisals in the mainly Christian south.

Mosques in two states have been attacked.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 160 million people, is divided between a largely Muslim north and a south where most people are Christians and some animists.

Thousands of people have fled their homes following the recent attacks, leading some people, including Nigeria’s president and the leader of the country’s main Christian organisation, to make comparisons with the 1967-70 civil war when the south-east tried to secede.

‘Religious cleansing’

In the latest attack, four people have been shot dead by attackers on motorbikes while they filled up their car with petrol in the north-eastern Yobe state, the local police chief has told the BBC.

Police chief Lawal Tanko did not release the identities of those killed, or the attackers.

The AFP news agency quotes local residents as saying those killed were southerners. Shootings from motorbikes are a Boko Haram trademark.

Yobe state is one of those areas where President Goodluck Jonathan has recently declared a state of emergency but the police chief said he had not yet received the details.

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In the 15-minute video, Mr Shekau, wearing a red and white turban, a bullet-proof vest and sitting in front of two Kalashnikov rifles, said he was responding to recent statements from Nigeria’s President Jonathan and the leader of the country’s main Christian organisation, the Christian Association of Nigeria.

He warned President Jonathan that Nigeria’s security forces would not be able to defeat the group.


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