The Nigerian army sent troops Wednesday to combat Islamic terrorists responsible for killing hundreds of civilians in violence that occurred this weekend.
The move comes a day after Christians – whom the terrorists have largely targeted in attacks – urged Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan to declare a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Yobe and Borno.
Violence erupted this weekend when the terrorist sect, Boko Haram, bombed houses and churches in the cities of Damaturu and Maiduguri.
Police set up roadblocks in Damaturu today to check the vehicles of suspected militants for weapons. Boko Haram has claimed the city as its headquarters. Nearly all Christians and non-native residents have left the area, leaving the town vacant for the militants to occupy.
Boko Haram has killed almost 400 people this year. The sect conducted the attacks with bombings, targeted assassinations and gunmen on motorcycles.
Initial reports said that no violence has been initiated between the Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram militants.
Religious leaders in the area are tired of the government’s well wishing. They now demand action.
The Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Nigeria issued a statement saying, “[The Fellowship] may no longer accept the smooth talkshow by both the respective states and Federal Government without any measurable political will to treat this evil virus that’s capable of tearing this country apart.”
Yesterday, Jonathan urged fellow Christians to pray for Nigeria and for the victims of the terror attacks. The deployment of soldiers today is the first military act in response to Boko Haram.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Embassy warned its citizens in the country that Boko Haram may target luxury hotels in the capital city of Abuja. Police were seen in front of those hotels this week, though Nigerian officials downplayed the threat.
Nigeria is almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Christians occupy the southern region, while Muslims largely occupy the north. Christians in the north have faced violent persecution at the hands of Boko Haram this year – over 100 Christians were killed this summer.
Sources say Boko Haram switched headquarters to Damaturu because officials had begun searching houses for weapons in the town of their previous headquarters. Boko Haram is keen to stay in the northeastern region of the state, where recruiting is facilitated by the area’s remoteness and unemployment rate.
However, this does not preclude that southern and middle areas of the country are exempt from Boko Haram attacks. Branches of the amoebic sect have attacked rural Christian farmers in the middle of the country. The group bombed a U.N. building in Abuja last year.
Boko Haram roughly translates to “western education is sacrilege.”