On 10 January, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram shot and killed eight persons, including four police officers and a seven-year-old child, in Potiskum, 120 km west of the Yobe state capital, Damaturu.
The Commissioner of Police in Yobe State, Mr Lawal Tanko, said six gunmen opened fire on their victims at a bar. “Suspected Islamic sect members attacked the drinking joint and killed eight people, four of whom were policemen”, Mr Lawal told Reuters. “The bodies of the deceased have been deposited at the Potiskum General Hospital”.
However, some local sources said those killed in the beer garden shooting included five policemen who had gone to drink, and one bartender. They also said the attackers sped off on a motorcycle immediately after the shooting.
Potiskum, the commercial nerve centre of Yobe State, is in the part of the state that President Goodluck Jonathan placed under emergency rule on 31 December, but this is the second episode of violence in the town in the 10 days since the emergency was declared.
On 6 January, suspected members of Boko Haram launched gun and bomb attacks on the police headquarters in the town. The attackers also robbed and burnt two banks, and threw a bomb into a police barracks, but no one in the barracks was hurt. Security forces responded with a gun battle that raged through the night.
Hundreds of residents in the areas around the police headquarters fled their homes for fear of being caught in the fighting while others left the town entirely.
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, President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the multiple bomb attacks earlier in the day, in which over 35 people were estimated to have been killed. The attackers struck in three cities – Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), specifically targeting churches in most of the attacks.
In a statement, Jonathan called the bombings “a dastardly act that must attract the rebuke of all peace-loving Nigerians”.
He said: “These acts of violence against innocent citizens are an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom. Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them”. Jonathan said his 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”.
The Minister for Police Affairs, Captain Caleb Olubolade, a former Navy officer, had earlier visited the scene of the Madalla blast and was quoted to have said that: “This is like an internal war against the country”.
The latest attacks follow a military offensive mounted against the sect around Damaturu in Yobe State three days earlier. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, had briefed newsmen that soldiers killed 59 members of the sect and destroyed one of their major arms depots in Damaturu on 22 and 23 December. Ihejirika said the clashes also left three soldiers dead and seven others wounded.
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”.
On 25 December – Christmas morning – an explosion near a church killed at least 20 people, in Madalla, near Suleja, in Niger State. Madalla, largely a market town in Niger State, is about 30 km from the Federal capital city, Abuja.
The blast went off near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church. The Public Relations Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yushau Shuaib, said the incident was a “suspected bomb blast” and that 10 persons had been confirmed dead. Local sources and other rescue workers initially reported 15 corpses being evacuated in three vehicles (ambulances), but feared the toll would be significantly higher. The French news agency, AFP, quotes a local priest, Father Christopher Barde, saying rescue officials told him they had counted 27 killed.
While the rescue effort was underway, angry youths from the town set up bonfires and threatened to attack the local police station. One of the youths claimed the police had failed to provide adequate security. With the area degenerating into chaos, the vastly outnumbered policemen had to shot into the air to disperse the angry youths. They also barricaded the highway which runs through the town.
AFP later reported that Abul Qaqa, a spokesman for the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, had called on phone, claiming responsibility for the blast. AFP quotes 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”.
Over the last few days, the army and other security forces had been battling members of the sect in Damaturu, Yobe State. The chief of army staff, Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, told newsmen that soldiers killed 59 members of the sect and destroyed one of their major arms depots in Damaturu between Thursday and Friday.
This is the fourth bomb incident in the area since this year, following three previous incidents in nearby Suleja – about 10 km away – and the second specifically targeting a church.
On 3 March, an explosion went off at a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally, just after Niger State governor Babangida Aliyu had addressed supporters; at least 12 people were killed and about 20 injured. On 8 April, another bomb exploded at the local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Suleja, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens of others, mostly young graduates who had been recruited as ad-hoc staff for the general elections. On 10 July, a third bomb explosion near two churches – the All Christian Fellowship Mission and the Faith Mission Church – killing three persons and wounding seven others.
A statement issued by a police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Yemi Ajayi, said 65 people died in all, far less than the 150 which some humanitarian workers had unofficially given to newsmen.
The statement said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the Nigeria Police hereby confirms 65 deaths as casualty figures as at date 9th November, 2011. The breakdown is as follows: 11 policemen, two soldiers, two Civil Defence personnel, one Immigration personnel, one Customs personnel, one FRSC personnel, 11 civilians and 36 suspected Boko Haram members”.
Commiserating with the victims and their families, as well as the government and people of Yobe State, over what it described as “callous and criminal acts”, the statement urged members of the public to always cooperate with the Police in its quest towards reducing crime to the barest minimum in the country.
It also reiterated “the need for all Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike to be more circumspect, alert at all times and to report any suspicious movements, strange gatherings and untoward behaviour to the nearest police station or to other security agencies nationwide”.
A serving member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Miss Eucharia Remmy, has been identified among those killed in the bloody attacks by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State, on 4 November.
Eucharia, from Enugu State, graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 2010, with a Second Class Upper degree in Psychology. She was a sister of the upcoming Nollywood actress, Mary Remmy, who recently featured in a movie titled ‘Blackberry Babes’.
According to reports, Eucharia was a member of Christ Embassy Church in Damaturu, and was distributing copies of the popular devotional guide Rhapsodies of Realities, near a police station on New Jerusalem Road, when the attackers struck. New Jerusalem Road is occupied mainly by churches and non-indigenes including corps members; it appears to have been specifically targeted by the attackers. Eucharia was reportedly shot in the head but did not die immediately. Reports say she was rushed to a hospital where she fell unconscious, before she eventually died at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
Friends and colleagues say Eucharia was very brilliant and talented, full of promise. A former classmate at UNN said: “She had a bright future ahead of her and would have become something great, if not for the tragic incident”.
On 6 November, the radical Muslim sect, widely called Boko Haram, threatened to carry out more attacks, a day after a series of blasts on federal security establishments and Christian churches killed dozens of people in Yobe State.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Suleimon Lawal, had initially reported 53 people killed by the armed men who attacked the police building housing an anti-terrorist unit, subsequently blew up a bank and further attacked at least three police stations and five churches. Humanitarian workers later said the casualties may have risen to over 100.
Hours after the blasts, a Boko Haram spokesman, Abul-Qaqa, promised that “more attacks are on the way”.
In an interview with the Abuja-based newspaper, Daily Trust, Abul-Qaqa said: “We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop their excesses on our members and vulnerable civilians”.
Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for several previous attacks, mostly on police and military establishments in Borno and other north-eastern states. Since it stepped up its bombing campaign earlier in the year, its suicide bombers have also struck the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja (16 June) and the multi-storey complex housing the offices of all United Nations agencies in the country (26 August) killing at least 20 people.
On 18 April, four people, including an elderly woman and a child, were killed in Potiskum, Yobe State, by rioters who said they were protesting the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had won the presidential election.
Potiskum is about 100 kilometres west of Damaturu, the Yobe State capital. The rioting youths, who numbered over 2,000, barricaded the major streets of the town, burning used tyres. They marched to the house of the former Minister for Police Affairs, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, a member of the PDP, and tried to set it ablaze; but they were repelled by policemen on patrol. The local INEC office was similarly saved by the timely intervention of the police.
Over seven people suffered serious injuries inflicted on them by the rioters, and were subsequently admitted for treatment at the General Hospital in Potiskum.
On 30 March, Police arrested seven suspected members of the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Borno State, and stormed a house suspected to be a hideout for its members in Damaturu, Yobe State.
Addressing newsmen in Maiduguri, Borno State Police Commissioner, Muhammed Abubakar, disclosed that seven suspected members of the group were arrested in Maiduguri in connection with the stampede at the venue of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) rally on 29 March. He said the suspects arrested confessed to being responsible for the gunshots at Ramat Square, venue of the ANPP rally, and also the robbery incident at Gwange area of the city. According to the police commissioner, one of the arrested persons, Baba Gana Mohammed, led the police to the group’s hideout in Damaturu, Yobe State.
The Commissioner disclosed that in Damaturu, the occupants of the said house engaged the police in a serious gun battle. They further threw deadly explosives at the police, detonated bombs in their own house before they ran away. The commissioner said that Imman Abubakar Mohammed Shekau, the alleged leader of the group, was among those who fled from the hideout.
In Yobe State, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Hyacinth Medugu, confirmed to newsmen that five devices exploded when a team of policemen, drawn from Yobe and Borno commands, stormed a house belonging to suspected members of the Boko Haram sect at Sani Daura Ahmed Housing Estate in Damaturu.
Medugu said, “We received information from Borno command that a house in Damaturu was harbouring Boko Haram members and requested enforcement to search the premises of the suspected house.
“We mounted surveillance on the house and noticed suspicious movements in and out of the house; then, we moved into action around 5am today (30 March), exchanging fire with the suspects. One of our men was shot, but he is responding to treatment.
The DCP said: “The unfortunate thing is that three of the suspects detonated the explosives and escaped, leaving behind two wives and three children who have been evacuated and were all safe.” He explained that men of the fire service department were invited to put out the fire caused by the explosives which razed down the house. He said the police recovered five cylinders suspected to have been used for explosives.
Abubakar said two AK 47 rifles, many rounds of ammunitions and deadly explosives including bombs were recovered from the scene. He added that the anti-bomb squad had been drafted to the scene to recover more explosives.
The police boss also said two women who are wives to the lieutenant to Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram sect, were arrested after the raid on the house. The two women arrested in Damaturu confessed to being wives of members of the sect. One of them, named Hadiza, told newsmen that she was the younger sister of one of the wives of Muhammed Yussuf, the late leader of the sect.