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Christmas attacks in Nigeria by sect kill 39
Question of the Day
Boko Haram has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. The group, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.
This Christmas attack comes a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded. The group also claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.
The sect came to national prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of Maiduguri, a dusty northeastern city on the cusp of the Sahara Desert. Nigeria’s military violently put down the attack, crushing the sect’s mosque into shards as its leader was arrested and died in police custody. About 700 people died during the violence.
While initially targeting enemies via hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes after the 2009 riot, violence by Boko Haram now has a new sophistication and apparent planning that includes high-profile attacks with greater casualties. That has fueled speculation about the group’s ties as it has splintered into at least three different factions, diplomats and security sources say. They say the more extreme wing of the sect maintains contact with terror groups in North Africa and Somalia.
Targeting the group has remained difficult, as sect members are scattered throughout northern Nigeria and nearby Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Analysts say political considerations also likely play a part in the country’s thus-far muted response: President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, may be hesitant to use force in the nation’s predominantly Muslim north.
In a statement, Jonathan condemned the blasts as a “unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom.”
“I want to reassure all Nigerians that government will not relent in its determination to bring to justice all the perpetrators of today’s acts of violence and all others before now,” Jonathan said.
However, Jonathan has made the same promises after a series of spiraling attacks by the group. His spokesman, Reuben Abati, defended the president by saying the country planned to spend more on security and had made arrests targeting the group.
“The administration is very determined to address this new threat of terrorism that seems to have slipped into our environment,” Abati told the AP.
But anger continues to grow over the sect’s apparent ability to strike at will — anger that could be seen at St. Theresa Catholic Church. After the blast, someone picked up a burnt piece of wood to scrawl: “Revolution now in the country” on its cement walls.
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