Massive Jailbreak Sparks Concern Among Nigerian Christian Leaders

Over 100 members of an Islamic extremist group escaped incarceration Tuesday following a violent raid of their prison in Bauchi, northern Nigeria.

According to reports, armed men attacked the prison at 6:40 p.m. and fought with the prison guards for two hours before letting loose over 700 inmates, including more than 100 Boko Haram members.

The massive escape has alarmed Christian leaders in northern Nigeria, where members of Boko Haram have killed a dozen Christians.

"Boko Haram is a threat to Christians in northeastern part of Nigeria where Christians were killed, including pastors killed and church burned down," commented the Rev. John Hayab, the general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigerian's Kaduna State chapter.

"More people could be killed if they are not checked," he added.

According to persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern (ICC), Boko Haram opposes western education and fights to impose Islamic Sharia law throughout Nigeria, including areas that are majority Christian.

The group has repeatedly targeted the police and Christian communities, and in July 2009, members of the group carried out attacks against Nigerian police officials, leading to the death of more than 700 people.

"We are extremely concerned by the escape of Boko Haram members from prison," remarked Jonathan Racho, Washington-based ICC's Regional Manager for Africa. "This is yet another indication of the failure by Nigerian authorities to protect their citizens from the violence by Islamic extremist groups.

"We urge Nigerian officials to immediately rearrest the escapees and protect the citizens of the country from future attacks," Racho added.

According to local reports, police in Niger, Nigeria's largest state, have tightened security around the state.

Heavily armed anti-riot policemen have been deployed in all entry points to the state, while sensitive public buildings and some religious places of worship were placed under 24-hour surveillance.

The police have also mounted road blocks on major roads in the state where vehicles were being stopped and searched.

"We are prepared to ensure they don't surface in any part of this state" Police Commissioner Michael Zuomukor told the Nigerian Tribune.

While some reports placed the number of escaped Boko Haram members at around 120, others have placed the figure closer to 200. In total, between 730 and 760 prisoners escaped.