On 19 February, an improvised bomb exploded near a church in Suleja, a town in Niger State, but on the edge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The blast occurred on Morocco Road, at the heart of the commercial area of the town, wounding five people and damaging five cars.
According to Uyi Idugboe, pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, the blast struck just a few minutes after the church service had started at 10 am. He said a member of the church, who had gone out to check that his vehicle was locked, spotted a suspicious-looking package lying between two cars. He promptly alerted everyone to stay indoors.
Said Idugboe: “When we were alerted, about 25 minutes before the detonation, we called everybody inside the church. That is why we don’t have casualties”.
The Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu, reported that no one was killed by the blast. Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also confirmed that: “No person died in the Suleja explosion. One person was seriously injured and is now in hospital. Four victims had minor injuries while five vehicles were damaged”.
Responding to the incident, large numbers of soldiers, police and other security operatives soon cordoned off the area, to enable bomb experts commence investigations.
Churches in Suleja and nearby Madalla have been targeted repeatedly by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northern states of the country. Its most recent attack in the area was the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, which killed about 43 people and wounded 57.
However, security operatives have arrested the suspected mastermind of that attack. More recently, the State Security Service (SSS) reportedly raided the home of one Bashiru Madalla, identified as coordinator of Boko Haram’s operations in the FCT and Niger State; but the suspect is said to be on the run.
On 6 February, multiple blasts occurred at the Gamboru market and a nearby pharmaceutical store in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. There had been no official casualty report, but three persons were feared killed with several vehicles and shops razed.
Local sources said three blasts hit the ‘Yan Robobi area of the market and two others struck D.K Pharmacy, one of the biggest pharmaceutical stores in the city. The sources said the owner of the pharmacy and two of his employees were killed, as the explosives destroyed the building that housed the store.
Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, chief operations officer of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri, confirmed the explosions at the market to some newsmen but reportedly gave no further details.
Maiduguri is the base of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group responsible for a series of bomb and gun attacks against security operatives and institutions as well opposing Muslim clerics and Christians in several northern states of the country. Its attacks have killed more than 200 people in the past five weeks since the beginning of the year.
However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the market and the pharmacy store – or for the assassination of two persons in the Ummarari ward of the metropolis the previous night.
Multiple bomb explosions rock Kano: Zonal Police headquarters, several police stations, Immigration office hit
On 20 January, multiple explosions and gunfire rocked Kano, capital of Kano State and the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, destroying several government buildings and turning the city into chaos.
Among the buildings hit were the Zone 1 police headquarters at Kofar Dan Agundi, along BUK road, Sharada; several other police stations and the Immigration office at Farm Centre. There were fears of substantial casualties, but no figures immediately available.
Local sources report huge smoke rising from the zonal police headquarters, after the building had been severely damaged by the blast. The building includes the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of the zone, which comprises the police commands in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States.
One account said the bomber of the police headquarters came close to the building on a motor cycle, got down and then made a dash inside, clutching a bag. The account said police tried to stop him but he forced his way through, and then the blast went off.
Soon after that first blast, several other explosions went off in different parts of the city. Some residents report that another explosion hit the police station on Zaria Road while a third hit the Immigration office. Others suggest that up to eight police stations may have been hit. Some residents said the attackers had freed detainees from about six police stations.
One report said another bomber also tried to attack the office of the State Security Service (SSS) but was shot down before he could detonate his bomb. A second attacker is said to have been arrested, but this is yet to be confirmed by security authorities.
There are yet no official or comprehensive reports of casualties, but some sources say they could be “substantial”. Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Kano, said they were having a hard time trying to reach the scenes of the major explosions, as police and army teams had cordoned off most of them and also set up many roadblocks across the city.
The Al Jazeera correspondent quotes one witness as having seen at least seven dead bodies, including five immigration officers and two civilians.
Police have declared a 24-hour curfew in Kano metropolis, but there were sounds of gunfire, apparently from gun battles between the attackers and security operatives, beyond sunset.
The Islamist militant group, widely known as Boko Haram, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks.
The group says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northernmost third of Nigeria’s 36 states. It had claimed responsibility, or had been blamed by security authorities, for several bomb and gun attacks, especially in the north-eastern Borno State, since late 2010.
On 16 June 2011, it claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack inside the premises of the Nigeria Police headquarters in the federal capital, Abuja. On 26 August, it also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations office complex in Abuja, in which 25 people were killed.
Most recently, it said it was responsible for the Christmas Day bomb attack on a church in Madalla near Abuja, in which over 40 worshippers were killed. In the first week of January, it gave all Christians and southerners a two-day ultimatum to leave the northern parts of the country, but government and security authorities urges citizens to ignore that ultimatum.
On 30 December, three explosions were reported in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, but military authorities said no one was killed.
Initial reports had said that one of the explosions occurred near a mosque after the Friday afternoon prayers and set off a massive stampede, and that about four people may have been killed.
BBC had quoted the Director of Army Public Relations, Maj Gen Raphael Isa, as confirming there had been a “major incident” which had caused casualties.
However, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force in the state, Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, while confirming the blasts to newsmen, said none of them occurred near a mosque. He said the explosions occurred near market areas in different parts of the city but that no one was killed.
The explosions occurred only five days after the Christmas Day bomb attacks on churches in Madalla, a town in Niger State close to the federal capital, Abuja, and also in Jos, capital of Plateau State. Those attacks killed at least 42 people, mostly Christian worshippers at the St Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla. The government blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram; a spokesman for the group also reportedly claimed responsibility.
About 24 hours before the latest blast, the group had emailed a statement to some media houses saying: “If God is willing, we will carry out further attacks”.
On 27 December, a bomb thrown into an Arabic school wounded at least seven people in Sapele, Delta State.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said some men driving past in a car threw a locally-made, low-capacity explosive into a building where an Arabic class was taking place at 10 pm on Tuesday night. “Six children and one adult were wounded”, he said.
The police spokesman said the children, aged between five and eight years, were at the school for their early night Arabic and Koranic lessons when the explosive hit them. He said: “They are receiving treatment in the hospital. No deaths were recorded and no arrests have been made”.
The attack on the Arabic school is the second incident of its kind in Sapele in less than three weeks. On 10 December, a blast occurred at the city’s main mosque at about 5.30 am, wounding several people. However, Muka said that incident was not a bomb attack and was, in fact, insignificant. He said: “If it is a bomb, we will see the particles. We have combed the place, we found nothing to show it is a bomb”. Even so, that explosion generated much anxiety and tension among residents, especially among the town’s small Hausa-Fulani community.
The most recent attack also comes just two days after multiple bomb attacks on Christmas morning killed an estimated 40 people, most of them Christians worshiping at a Catholic church in Madalla, near the Federal capital, Abuja. Those attacks, for which the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility, have heightened sectarian tensions in some parts of the country.
In a statement on 27 December, Christian leaders under their umbrella organization, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), threatened to resort to “self defence” if the government could not stop the attacks on their followers.
However, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who is also the spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims, cautioned against viewing the Christmas Day attacks as a religious or inter-faith conflict. He told newsmen, after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, that: “There is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity…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”.
The National Security Adviser to the President, Gen Andrew Azazi (retired), spoke in the same vein: “We are Nigerians. I don’t see any major conflict between the Christian community and Muslim community. Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end?”
On 25 December, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen Andrew Azazi (rtd), said a major Christmas Day catastrophe planned by the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, was thwarted by the proactive measures which security agencies had taken recently, to checkmate the group’s activities.
In a statement on Boko Haram’s multiple bomb attacks in Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State) on Christmas Day, the NSA said the attack on the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, was an act of desperation by the sect, after security agencies had frustrated its other more bloody plans.
He said: “It is important to inform the public that the proactive measures put in place by the security forces during this festive period have so far checkmated a major catastrophic plan envisaged by Boko Haram”. Elaborating on the measures, he said: “Boko Haram’s major armoury in Yobe was destroyed only last week. Yet another armoury in Kaduna and two in Kano were destroyed also last week, in addition to heavy casualties the sect sustained”.
The NSA urged citizens to “go about their activities, remain vigilant and urgently report anything suspicious to security agents”.
He further said: “We renew our appeal to all Nigerians that this is not a fight between security forces and some dissident elements. It is a conflict between some misguided extremists in our midst and the rest of our society, because the victims are not confined to any ethnic boundary. We must cooperate to fish them out. And because our cause is just and our collective resolve is stronger, together we shall prevail!”
On 25 December, the National Security Adviser, Gen Andrew Azazi (rtd) reported that two suspects had been arrested in connection with the bombing of the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla in Niger State, in which about 30 people were killed.
In a statement, Azazi said: “Two of the criminals had been apprehended, caught in the action”.
The Parish Priest at the bombed Madalla church, Rev. Fr Isaac Achii, had earlier told newsmen that his men informed him that shortly after the blasts, two strangers ran into the church backyard. Apprehended by worshippers, the men could not offer a reasonable account of how and why they got there. They were therefore suspected to be among those that threw the bomb, the priest said, and handed over to the police.
Local police sources also reported that two men were arrested after they were seen in a part of Madalla town known as Monkey Village, fleeing from the area of the blast. The sources said information obtained from the men suggested they may have had a hand in the bombing.
It was yet to be ascertained whether the arrests reported by Rev Fr Achii and the police referred to the same, or two different sets, of suspects.
On 25 and 26 December, the multiple bomb attacks which killed almost 40 people in three cities on Christmas Day, drew widespread condemnations from the international community.
The attacks killed about 35 Christian worshippers just outside a church in Madalla, Niger State; a policeman in a firefight with suspected bombers in Jos, Plateau State; and four other people at the office of the State Security Service (SSS) in Damaturu, Yobe State. The militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Early reactions came from the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon; the governments of the United States, Turkey, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and Israel, as well as the Vatican.
UN SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he condemned “in the strongest terms, the attacks targeting churches in Madala, on the outskirt of the Nigerian capital, Abuja and the north-eastern city of Jos, which have left many dead and injured”.
The Secretary-General called, once again, for “an end to all acts of sectarian violence in the country” stressing that “no objective sought can justify this resort to violence”. He expressed his sympathy and condolences to the people of Nigeria and to the families who lost loved ones.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day. We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people and especially those who lost family and loved ones.” The White House statement said initial investigations showed the attacks were “terrorist acts” and pledged to help Nigeria bring those responsible to justice.
A statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Turkey strongly condemned the deadly bomb attacks. It said the attacks “saddened Turkey deeply and Turkish people share the sufferings of the Nigerian people and the government of the friendly country.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed condolences to the Nigerian leadership on the heavy death toll of the attacks. In a telegram to the Nigerian government, Medvedev said Moscow “condemns the cruelty and cynicism of the crimes perpetrated”. He added that terrorism knows no boundaries and that Russia was prepared to actively cooperate with the international community in fighting off the threat posed by terrorists.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed “solidarity in [Nigeria’s] fight against terrorism”.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed regret that: “Even on Christmas Day, the world is not spared from cowardice and the fear of terrorism”.
The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: “These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others. I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured”.
Israel “condemned in the strongest terms these attacks carried out on Christmas Day” and said it would send medical aid to Nigeria.
The Vatican said attacking a church was “blind hatred” seeking to “arouse and feed even more hatred and confusion”.
On 25 December – Christmas Day – bomb explosions in three cities – Madalla (Niger State); Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), left dozens dead or wounded. Some estimates said the blasts killed over 35 people.
In Madalla, a market town near Suleja in Niger State, a powerful explosion near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church killed about 30 people and wounded more than 50. The blast destroyed or seriously damaged several cars, with some of the occupants burnt inside.
Security sources said the explosion occurred after members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, threw improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from a moving vehicle. Some sources report that the attackers threw the explosive after failing to gain access to the church during the Christmas morning service.
A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the casualties at 16, but local residents and other rescue workers said the toll was significantly higher. The French news agency, AFP, quoted a local priest, Father Christopher Barde, as saying rescue officials told him they had counted 27 bodies.
Some of the wounded were rushed to hospitals in the Federal capital, Abuja, for treatment, but died before getting there. Madalla is about 30 km from Abuja.
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, two blasts targeted the Mountain of Fire and Miracles church, as some young men reportedly threw bombs at the building. No one was killed by the blast, but a police officer was mortally wounded, after security operatives engaged the attackers in a gun battle. The officer was rushed to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for medical attention, but died of his wounds.
After the firefight, the attackers fled into a crowd, but the Police arrested four suspected persons. Military and other security personnel also recovered and disabled some explosive devices at a nearby building.
The blasts mark the second Christmas that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in Jos. Five churches were attacked in the city, on and around Christmas Day 2010, with dozens killed. Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In Damaturu, capital of Yobe state, a State Security Service (SSS) building was attacked by a bomber. Sources said a suicide bomber seeking to run his car into a military convoy in front of the agency’s office, killed himself and three security agents. Only hours earlier, on Christmas Eve, an explosion had targeted a church in Gadaka, a town near Damaturu. Local sources said many people may have been wounded, but there were no figures of any casualties.
SECURITY AUTHORITIES BLAME BOKO HARAM, SECT CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
The National Security Adviser to the President, Gen Owoye Azazi (rtd), in a statement, blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The statement said: “The latest mindless and cowardly attacks by Boko Haram members, specifically directed at churches, were pre-meditated”.
AFP later reported that a Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, had called on phone, claiming responsibility for the blasts. The news agency quoted the spokesman as saying: “We are responsible for all the attacks in the past few days, including today’s bombing of the church in Madalla. We will continue to launch such attacks throughout the north in the next few days”.