MADALA, Nigeria – Muslim extremists bent on ridding Nigeria’s volatile middle region of Christianity killed five Christians in Niger state on Sept. 22 and three others the previous week in the north-central state of Kaduna, including a 13-year-old girl, sources said.
Suspected militants from the Boko Haram Islamic sect in the Niger state town of Madala went to shops owned by Christians at a market at about 8 p.m., ordering them to recite verses from the Quran, eyewitnesses told Compass. If the Christian traders were unable to recite the verses, the gunmen shot and killed them, they said.
The sound of the gunshots compelled Christians to call police in nearby Suleja, and officers arrived to find five Christians had already been killed. Richard Adamu Oguche, a spokesman for the Niger State Police Command in the state capital of Minna, confirmed that five Christians had been killed.
He told Compass the attack was linked to members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect who have recently bombed Christian sites.
Killed in the Madala market attacks were Sunday Emmanuel, John Kalu, Uche Nguweze, and Oliver Ezemah. The identity of the fifth Christian was not immediately known as witnesses could not identify him.
Suspected Muslim extremists killed three Christians in a Sept. 17 midnight attack on a Christian community in Kaduna state, sources said.
In guerrilla style typical of recent Islamic extremist attacks in northern Nigeria, about 15 gunmen stormed three houses in Ungwan Rana Bitaro village in the Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna, leaving three dead and eight wounded.
“Three houses were attacked by the attackers before they retreated into surrounding bushes,” a resident of the village told Compass by phone. “When the Muslims came, they brought out the members of these families and started shooting them and cutting some of them with machetes. The sound of gunshots forced us out of our houses, and we took to our heels since we could not fight armed men when we do not have arms like them.”
Killed were Monday Hassan, 55, his 13-year-old daughter Godiya, and his 35-year-old nephew, Istifanus Daniel. The eight who sustained injuries received treatment at Kwoi General Hospital.
A medical staff member at Kwoi General Hospital who requested anonymity confirmed the village residents’ account.
“Most of the victims brought to the hospital had gunshot wounds and machete cuts,” the hospital worker said. “Some of them with more serious injuries have been referred to the Kafanchan General Hospital.”
Dr. Danladi Gyet Maude, Jaba chief and an area Christian community leader, said the attack was reported to police.
Kaduna city police also confirmed the attack and the number of casualties, with officials saying they have ramped up the search for the attackers. Aminu Lawan, spokesman for the Kaduna State Police Command, said police have begun investigating and officers are on the trail of the assailants.
“Three persons were killed, and some others were injured as a result of the attack, but we have drafted our men to the village with a view of arresting the perpetrators,” Lawan said.
The murders follow similar Islamist attacks on Christian communities in Kaduna state’s Fadiya Bajju, Ungwan Yuli and Ungwan Yaro villages. The attack at Ungwan Yaro and Ungwan Yuli left no casualties, but many were injured. The assault at Fadiya Bakut village in Bajju district left two persons dead.
The attack on Ungwan Rana Bitaro village brings the death toll in Kaduna state to five Christians in three weeks (see www.compassdirect.org, “Muslim Extremists from Niger Help Kill Christians in Nigeria,” Aug. 31).
The recent guerrilla attacks by Muslim extremists in southern Kaduna state have also been typical of assaults on Christian communities in Bauchi and Plateau states.
Amid this spate of attacks, reports from Internet activist group Wikileaks have surfaced indicating a mosque in the city of Kaduna, commonly known as Yahaya Road Mosque, runs an Islamic school where Muslim teenagers are allegedly trained to become terrorists; most of those trained in the mosque, according to the Wikileaks report published in Nigerian media Sept. 4, are allegedly members of the dreaded Islamic sect Boko Haram.
Nigerian newspapers have quoted Wikileaks as reporting that U.S. Embassy personnel found Muslim teenagers were being indoctrinated with hate theology against Christians and Western nations, particularly the United States and European countries.
Mosque leaders deny it. Alhaji Garba Ibrahim, chairman of the management committee of the mosque, issued a statement to media in Kaduna on Friday (Sept. 23) asserting that it was unfortunate that Wikileaks portrayed the mosque as hypnotizing students with Islamic extremism and organizing them to do violence.
“Ordinarily, this ought not to bother us in view of the source of the information, the United States, leader of the Western nations against Islam and Muslims, but for the records, and to reassure parents and government of Kaduna state, the report is nothing but a tissue of lies,” Ibrahim said. “It was curious that a mosque situated in … a neighbourhood of serving and retired top public officers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, would undertake unlawful activities unnoticed except to the eyes and ears of the American Embassy.”
Ibrahim said the school was opened in November 1979 after approval from the state government with a curriculum designed by an Islamic association known as the Association for the Propagation of Islam.
“The mosque’s management, however, invites Nigerians to visit the place of worship and see things for themselves, rather than being cowed by the malicious American report, which has strengthened our faith and commitment to observe and propagate the tenets of Islam within the sharia [Islamic law] and laws of our country,” the statement said.
Boko Haram Attacks
The Madala attack last week was Boko Haram’s fourth such assault in Niger state this year, including a July 10 bombing of the worship center of the All Christian Fellowship Mission in Suleja that killed three Christians.
Nineteen members of Boko Haram are on trial in Abuja in connection with the bombings of Madala and Suleja churches. Apart from the attack on the Christians and their churches, these militants are also on trial for the bombing of the United Nations office in Abuja that resulted in the death of 23 persons.
Boko Haram, which has declared a jihad on the government in a bid to impose a strict version of sharia on the country, reportedly formalized links with Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb last year. Sharia is already in force in 12 northern states, where Christians are supposed to be exempt but are often compelled to comply by various sectors of society. Borno state, where Boko Haram has its base, is one of the states implementing Islamic law.
Dr. Abdulateef Adegbite, secretary-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, has said Muslim leaders do not support the activities of Boko Haram.
Nigeria’s population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent of the population and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.