[ 2011-12-29 ]
Nigeria Christians vow to defend themselves
ABUJA (AFP) - Nigerian Christians vowed to defend
themselves after a string of attacks blamed on
Islamists as the bombing of an Arabic school
raised fears of reprisals.
Police said attackers threw a "low-capacity" bomb
into an Arabic school in a drive-by attack in
Nigeria's mainly Christian south, wounding six
children and an adult on Tuesday evening. Nobody
has claimed responsibility.
The attack followed Christmas Day bombings blamed
on the Islamist Boko Haram group that killed 40
people in several towns -- the deadliest an
explosion outside a Catholic church near the
The president of the Christian Association of
Nigeria, Reverend Ayo Oritsejafor, urged followers
Wednesday not to take revenge but said they should
defend themselves, their property and their places
of worship "any way they can".
"The consensus is that the Christian community
nationwide will be left with no other option than
to respond appropriately if there are any further
attacks on our members, churches and property,"
Oritsejafor told reporters.
As frustration rose over the state's seeming
inability to stop attacks despite military
crackdowns, President Goodluck Jonathan said: "we
are doing our best" with the assistance of African
and other countries that have experienced
extremist attacks in the past.
"... we will restructure, we will readjust and
make sure that we get a team that will meet with
this challenge that we are facing today," he said,
adding that arrests had been made and
"interrogation is being done".
Jonathan urged Nigerians not to shield the
"The terrorists are human beings, they are not
spirits. They live with us, they dine with us. So
we know them, people know them. And as long as
Nigerians are committed to exposing them, we
(will) get over this ugly situation."
Nigerian leaders have been seeking to calm
tensions amid fears the Christmas attacks could
set off sectarian clashes in Africa's most
populous nation and largest oil producer. The
country is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim
north and predominately Christian south.
It was not clear who was behind the bomb attack on
the Arabic school in Delta state in the
oil-producing Niger Delta region.
Police spokesman Charles Mouka said it occurred
while a group of children between the ages of five
and eight attended evening Arabic and Koranic
While scores of explosions have hit the Delta
region in recent years, they have mainly targeted
oil installations and the attacks have not been of
a sectarian character.
Christian leaders urged the government and
intelligence authorities to take action against
spiralling violence blamed on Boko Haram, and
Oritsejafor labelled the attacks "a declaration of
war on Christians and Nigeria as an entity".
He said Christians should protect themselves "any
way they can".
Also on Wednesday, a coalition of Nigerian
Pentecostal churches said they would defend
themselves if the authorities failed to do so,
though an official stressed they were not
advocating taking up arms.
"In the year 2012, if these unprovoked attacks
continue and Christians remain unprotected by the
security agencies, then we will have no choice but
to defend our lives and property," the Pentecostal
Fellowship of Nigeria said.
Nigeria's top Muslim spiritual leader met Jonathan
over the attacks on Tuesday, stating afterwards
that the violence did not signal a religious
"I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no
conflict between Muslims and Christians, between
Islam and Christianity," Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad
Sa'ad Abubakar told journalists.
"It's a conflict between evil people and good
people. The good people are more than the evil
ones, so the good people must come together to
defeat the evil ones, and that is the message."
The president's national security adviser urged
Christians not to seek revenge.
"Retaliation is not the answer, because if you
retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must
survive as a nation," Owoye Azazi said.
Violence had been raging even in the days before
the Christmas bombings, especially in the
northeastern cities of Damaturu, Potiskum and
Maiduguri. Most of the incidents attributed to
Boko Haram have occurred in the northeast.
Officials were rushing to provide relief to some
90,000 people displaced in Damaturu after clashes
last week between Boko Haram and security forces.
Up to 100 people were feared killed in Damaturu, a
police source and rights group said.
"We advised the displaced against moving into any
temporary camp for security reasons, therefore
most of them are sheltering in the homes of
friends and relatives in the city and neighbouring
villages," said Ibrahim Farinloye of the National
Emergency Management Agency.
Source - AFP
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