Nigerians Flee Homes as Violence Flares
08 Jan 2012 01:33 GMT
 

CAIRO - Adding to the pains of Africa's most populous nation, hundreds of Muslims fled their homes on Saturday, January 7, in fear of military raids in (more)

CAIRO - Adding to the pains of Africa's most populous nation, hundreds of Muslims fled their homes on Saturday, January 7, in fear of military raids in the aftermath of all-night gun battles between radical Boko Haram group and security forces.

"Virtually all the residents have fled their homes for fear of attack by soldiers who came to the town this morning," Idris Bakanike, a resident of the Dogo Tebo area near the police headquarters, told Agence France Presse.

Residents accused soldiers in the northeastern city of Maiduguri of burning homes and shooting residents after attacks by Boko Haram radicals, accusing residents of complicity with them.

"We are afraid the soldiers will raid and burn our homes like they do in Maiduguri each time Boko Haram attack," said local resident Amiru Umar.

The latest clashes in the town, placed under emergency rule by President Goodluck Jonathan, came amid growing fears of wider religious violence in Africa's most populous nation.

Dozens of soldiers were deployed on Saturday and took up positions around the police headquarters, firing sporadically following gun and bomb attacks by members of Boko Haram in the northeastern town of Potiskum.

They also threw a bomb into a nearby police barracks but no-one was hurt, said residents.

After the overnight fighting in Potiskum, police had not announced yet the death toll.

"Our men engaged Boko Haram gunmen in shootouts for most of the night, which led to some deaths and injuries," Yobe state police commissioner Lawan Tanko told AFP.

"It is too early to give figures because we are still investigating the incident."

The military has been accused of killing civilians and burning their homes after previous bomb attacks attributed to Boko Haram.

Last August 2011, Nigeria's ministry of defense said it will probe alleged military misconduct by troops who were reported to be responsible for abuses of civilians during a crackdown on Boko Haram group in northeast of the country.

Local residents blamed army troops of abuse of power, going out in mass protests against their actions, including the arrest of several teachers from an Islamic school on suspicion of affiliating to Boko Haram.

Boko Haram says it wants a wider application of Shari`ah across Africa's most populous nation.

Violence Rages

The latest military crackdown followed a fresh wave of violence against the country's Christian communities in the capital of Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria.

“Bodies were brought in from the church attack, we have between 8 and 10 bodies,” a hospital source told AFP.

The killings took place on Friday evening at a church in downtown Yola, the capital of Adamawa state.

Earlier on Friday, up to 17 were killed in an attack on Christians at a house as they mourned the death of a friend shot dead the night before.

"There was an attack at the Christian Apostolic church this evening," said a journalist who lives in Yola and asked not to be named.

“Some gunmen went into the church and opened fire on worshippers killing some people and wounding several others.”

Another attack occurred on Thursday evening when gunmen stormed a church in the northeastern city of Gombe and opened fire as worshippers were praying, killing six people, including the pastor's wife.

The attacks come as a three-day ultimatum issued by a purported spokesman for an Islamist group Boko Haram, for Christians to leave the north.

Later, a man claiming to be a spokesman for Boko Haram told local media the group had carried out both the Mubi and Gombe attacks.

"We are extending our frontiers to other places to show that the declaration of a state of emergency by the Nigerian government will not deter us. We can really go to wherever we want to go," said Abul Qaqa.

He said the attacks were "part of our response to the ultimatum we gave to southerners to leave the north" and called on the government to release all Boko Haram prisoners.

Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.

Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.

But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.

The tensions are rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with mostly Muslim migrants and settlers from the north.

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net



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