Dozens killed in bomb and retaliatory attacks in northern Nigeria
Several churches in Nigeria’s Kaduna State were bombed on Sunday. Dozens of people were killed in the blasts and interreligious riots that followed. Analysts say this latest spat of violence undermines President Goodluck Jonathan’s promise to eradicate the Boko Haram islamist group by June.
A church was targeted in the state capital, also called Kaduna, and blasts ripped through two churches 30 kilometres away in the city of Zaria in coordinated bomb attacks.
At the Christ The King Catholic Church in the Gari district of Zaria, thirteen people were killed when a suicide bomber attempted to drive through a barricade at the entrance. The death toll could have been higher had it not been for security measures in place.
“If they had succeeded in entering only god knows what would have happened. I probably wouldn’t be alive,” George Dodo, the reverend of Christ The King Catholic Church told RFI.
Both the Christ The King’s Catholic Church and ECWA Church (ECWA) are situated close to a Nigerian Army barracks.
No group has claimed responsibility, although last week the Islamist group, Boko Haram, said it carried out attacks on two churches in the city of Jos that killed seven people.
The group has killed hundreds of people in the past three years by targeting security forces and churches, and claims to be fighting a holy war against government corruption.
In Kaduna the Shalom Church was hit by a bomb in what appears to have been a coordinated attack on all three locations.
Shortly after the attacks in Kaduna groups of Christian youths began hunting down Muslims in retaliatory attacks according to witnesses. Over forty people have so far been hospitalized.
“Forty three people have been brought here today with injuries. Seven people have died from severe burns,” according to Sunday Ali, public relations officer St Gerard’s Hospital.
The governor of Kaduna, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, has announced a 24 hour curfew across the state on Sunday.
The military and police are present “in significant numbers” witnesses say.
“Military helicopters are currently flying over parts of Kaduna city because youths are still fighting,” Pastor David Lewu told RFI.
There is a significant Christian minority in Kaduna State. It was the scene of interreligious violence in the year 2000 that killed over 1000 people following the announcement of plans to impose Islamic law in the state.
In March, the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, said security forces would “cripple” Boko Haram by June.
The purported leader of Boko Haram, Shekau Abubakar, responded in a video posted on YouTube in April saying the groups combatants would “devour” President Goodluck within three months.
“It’s quite clear that the security forces are incapable of making true to that declaration by the president,” said civil rights activist, Shehu Sani, and added, “So now people have lost hope and confidence about the ability of the protect lives.”