Violence in northeast Nigeria escalated earlier this week as terror sect Boko Haram are believed to be responsible for several deaths following grenade and gunfire attacks, according to reports.
Now, government officials and religious leaders are concerned about increased violence during the Christmas weekend.
Attacks in two Yobe state cities, Damaturu and Potiskum, yielded at least six deaths according to police. Though Boko Haram has not claimed responsibility for the attacks, the indiscriminate gunfire and grenade explosions are characteristic of the sect.
A police station in Potiskum was attacked, while militants in nearby Damaturu – the state’s capital – threw homemade grenades at police officers. Witnesses report people hiding in community centers and fleeing the town entirely out of fear, according to a BBC report.
Thousands of Christians fled nearby Maiduguri after a Nov. 4 attack killed more than 150 people. The town has since become a stronghold for Boko Haram, who targets Christians, government officials and dissenting Muslims in their quest to implement Shariah law throughout Nigeria.
Sources in the area claim Nigerian military reinforcements were sent to the region. President Goodluck Jonathan has increased military presence throughout the country, particularly in the capital of Abuja, though maintains that Boko Haram presents only a “temporary problem.”
For the last two years, Boko Haram has terrorized communities from its northern outposts. Muslims, who occupy the northern region of the country, target Christian southerners and rural farmers in the middle belt region.
Boko Haram has threatened attacks on communities on and around Christmas – though, there has been a steady stream of violence for about the last two months anyway.
A Nigerian church leader wrote in a statement to International Christian Concern about the burgeoning threat of holiday violence.
“The rumor of possible attacks on Christians during this year's Christmas celebration is gaining more momentum,” the source said. “The Christians are calling on the government of Nigeria to ensure the protection of lives and properties, and we call on the church worldwide to bear up the church in Nigeria on the wings of prayer.”
Last year, Boko Haram killed over 30 people in the town of Jos in a Christmas attack.