- (Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is being accused by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of possible crimes against humanity, which includes the deaths of thousands of Christians and Muslims in the African nation.
"The information available provide a reasonable basis for believing that in July 2009 Boko Haram launched a widespread and systematic attack that resulted in the deaths of 1,200 civilians, Muslims and Christians in different parts of Nigeria," wrote Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the ICC in the report.
Boko Haram has made it clear that its intent is on driving Christians out and imposing Islamic rule on a country that is divided between geographic and faith lines, with most Christians concentrated in the South and Muslims in the North.
Several human rights organizations have condemned the attacks on churches, congregations and government buildings, but despite President Goodluck Jonathan's attempts to stop the violence, the bloodshed continues. On Monday, 35 people were killed in separate gun battles between Boko Haram members and Nigerian security forces in the northeast Borno state, Reuters reported.
"The scale and intensity of the attacks have increased over time," the ICC report added, which is based on preliminary information through December 2012.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have warned the Islamic group against attacking civilians, but Boko Haram continues carrying out deadly attacks.
The Nigerian government had considered offering the group amnesty as part of efforts to end the violence, but in April Boko Haram responded by saying that it is the government who should be begging it for a pardon.
"The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state," Boko Haram said in June 2012.
The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) has tried to bring attention to the issue in the U.S. by calling on Americans to help protect Christians who are regularly attacked and killed in Nigeria. "We want fellow Christians in America to rise up in the face of the innocent Nigerian Christians who are the main target of Boko Haram," wrote Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN.
"These people are doing whatever they like, they have gone out of control, they are threatening the very peace and security of Nigeria, and that of the region," Akande additionally told The Christian Post in a phone interview.
"They have turned Christians into a group of sitting ducks. This is why we want American Christians to rise up and support our association, because we have decided to be the voice of the voiceless. We want American Christians to help us carry our message to the U.S. Congress and get the government to do what is right, which is to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization."