by Faith J. H. McDonnell
Are they terrorists yet? Boko Haram, an Islamist sect seeking to impose Sharia throughout Nigeria, attacked three church services on Sunday, April 29, 2012. The latest slaughters added twenty-seven more dead to 900+ victims of the past two years’ efforts by Boko Haram to kill all the Christians in northern Nigeria. In recent months, the sect has also been marking the houses of Christians in the north, targeting them for killing, forcing thousands to flee from their homes.
On the morning of April 29, Boko Haram struck Catholic and Protestant worship services simultaneously at Bayero University in Kano. Twenty-two so farhave been confirmed dead, and twenty-three wounded. In the evening they attacked a church service in Jere, near Maiduguri, Borno State, killing another five people.
U.S. Congressmen Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) recently wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging that she designate the group as a terrorist organization. Meehan’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence released an extensive, bi-partisan report on Boko Haram as an “emerging threat to the U.S. Homeland.” But the State Department continues to downplay Boko Haram’s Islamist nature, preferring to see the terrorist murderers – of whom even the Nigerian police are afraid – as victims of poverty and marginalization.
One survivor of the April 29 attack on the Catholic Mass was a geography professor, Emmanuel Olofin. Olofin reported that Mass had just gotten underway in the university indoor sports complex at 8:10 AM when the worshippers heard the sound of “gunshots and pellets falling on the roof of the building.” According to reports, the attackers arrived in a car and two motorcycles. They threw explosives into the building and sent people into a panic. They fled from the building, straight into the attackers’ line of fire.
Professor Olofin, age 71, leaped over an eight-foot fence instead of using the actual exit in the gate. “I believe that most of the people that died were those who took the pedestrian exit because it seemed as if the attackers used the pedestrian gate to gain entrance,” said Olofin, who found refuge under a tree. Among the dead were two of Olofin’s university colleagues, Professors Jerome Ayodele, Department of Chemistry, and Andrew Leo Ogbonyomi, Library Science.
At the same time the attack on the Catholics was taking place, other members of the sect attacked the Chapel of Victory Protestant church service, meeting outdoors near the Faculty of Medicine. Professor Julius Falola, who was preaching when the Islamists arrived, recounted a horrific scene similar to that described by Professor Olofin. Explosions and gunshots were followed by fleeing church members who provided easy targets for Boko Haram killers.Falola said that some of the Christians “jumped over the fence while others ran deeper into the campus.” Falola hid in the university clinic. Falola and Olofin, as well as other witnesses, said that the police did not arrive until 10 AM. “The shooting went on for 45 minutes,” said Falola.
Boko Haram topped off their killing spree later that night, by opening fire on the Church of Christ in Nigeria parish in Jere. Because of a state of emergency in the town, worshippers had foregone meeting in the morning in favor of what they assumed would be an unnoticed and therefore less dangerous evening worship. Halfway through the service, witnesses reported that the Islamists came “in their trademark car, Volkswagen Golf, dressed in flowing gowns.” After “their routine shout of ‘Allah akbar,’ they . . . headed straight for the altar” where they shot and killed the pastor, Reverend Albert Naga. Four others died from the attack, as well.
In response to Sunday’s targeted killing of Christians by Boko Haram, Secretary Clinton put out a paragraph on May 1, saying that the United States “strongly condemns the recent attacks on innocent civilians in Nigeria, including yesterday’s disgraceful assault during church services at Bayero University in Kano.” Clinton said that they are “concerned about attacks on churches, news media, and government installations that increasingly target innocent civilians across Northern Nigeria.” She condemned “attempts by those in Nigeria who seek to inflame Christian-Muslim tensions, and support those who recognize Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity as one of the country’s greatest strengths.” She concluded by saying that “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who were killed and injured.”While the statement does specifically mention churches, her condemnation of “those in Nigeria who seek to inflame Christian-Muslim tensions,” is vague enough to cause concern. First of all, it is obvious to almost everyone but the State Department why the “tension” is there to begin with: Islamic supremacism such as that of Boko Haram and other radical Muslims who want a pure Islamic state. In that case, any action, statement, or mere existence of non-Muslims can inflame the tension – a lunar eclipse, a Miss World pageant, the election of a Christian president, a speech by the Pope… and usually it is the Nigerian Christians (or the Christians anywhere in the Islamic world) who are blamed for “inflaming” things.
Other popular targets of Boko Haram have been newspaper offices and television viewing centers. On April 25, Boko Haram was responsible for bombing a television viewing center in Jos, Plateau State, where hundreds of Christians were watching a soccer match. One person was killed and four were injured when the radicals drove by the site and threw an explosive device at the viewers. On December 10, 2011, Boko Haram bombed three television viewing centers in Jos. At one site, 31 year-old Joshua Dabo was killed in the explosion. Ten people were injured, with four in critical condition and two in left in a coma, at the two other viewing centers. Apparently, watching soccer also inflames Christian-Muslim tensions.
The government of President Goodluck Jonathan has been asking the United States for help in dealing with Boko Haram and other terrorists, but so far the U.S. State Department has talked of providing financial aid to impoverished and marginalized youth, like Boko Haram. In his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson said, “The Nigerian government must effectively engage communities vulnerable to extremist violence by addressing the underlying political and socio-economic problems in the North.” In what is absolute dismissal of the life-and-death struggles that Nigerian authorities have had with Boko Haram, he added, “The government must also promote respect for human rights by its security forces, whose heavy-handed tactics and extrajudicial killings reinforce the belief that Abuja is insensitive to the concerns of the North.” Then he added helpfully, “The appointment of credible northerners to lead the government response to northern grievances would be an important and tangible step toward reversing that perception.” Well, since the State Department appears to see Boko Haram as “credible northerners,” perhaps it will suggest their appointment. That would follow the pattern the Obama Administration has helped to set through Arab “Spring.”
On May 1, 2012, a Reuters news report indicated that the Nigerian government has not decided to follow the State Department’s advice. Forces raided the hideout of Boko Haram in Kano (the location the State Department is considering for a second U.S. Embassy), and after a gunfight that lasted several hours, killed “the mastermind” of the attack on the Christian worshippers the weekend before. According to Police Commissioner for Kano State Ibrahim Idris, AK-47 assault rifles, 467 munitions and 45 cans full of explosives were seized in the raid. And Kano army commander Brigadier General Ilyasu Abba, part of the Joint Task Force that conducted the raid, explained that although the terrorists of Boko Haram can identify the Nigerian security forces, the security forces cannot identify them. He said that two of the suspects had “escaped through the back door.”
While the Obama Administration continues to deny that Boko Haram are terrorists, more evidence has surfaced to prove their affiliation as such. An April 30, 2012 report from Nigerian newspaper, This Day Live, reveals that documents linking Boko Haram directly to Osama bin Laden were found in the dead terrorist’s house in Pakistan. The documents confirm what a top Boko Haram figure had declared openly to The Guardian in January. “A Boko Haram spokesman had boasted after the attacks on Police Headquarters in Abuja last year that the group had just trained a generation of suicide bombers in Somalia in what was seen then as a direct link to al-Shaabab, a Somali terrorist group aligned to al-Qaeda,” according to the report. They added that “Boko Haram is also believed to be working with Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), based in Algeria.”
All the evidence coming out about Boko Haram only confirms and clarifies what the terrorist group has said about itself. It is “fighting to reinstate a 19th century Islamic caliphate.” As such, it wants to remove the Christian presence from the north of Nigeria and ultimately, from the entire country. U.S. Representatives Peter King and Patrick Meehan have warned that Boko Haram is a tremendous threat not only to the Christians and other good citizens of Nigeria, but “its tactics, targeting, and fundraising operations appear to be increasingly international in scope, including within the U.S. Homeland.” This threat should be taken seriously.Faith J. H. McDonnell
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