FaithWorld

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists have support in gov’t, President Jonathan says

(A member of the clergy guides security forces through the scene of a car bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said the violent Islamist sect Boko Haram has supporters within his own government, and the insecurity the group has created is worse than during the 1960s civil war that killed more than a million people. Jonathan suggested that Boko Haram – which has been blamed for gun and bomb attacks across the country, most recently targeting Christians – had sympathisers at all levels of the government.

“Some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary,” he said at a church service in the capital Abuja late on Sunday. “Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house,” he said.

Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast and two other regions of Nigeria on December 31, trying to contain a growing insurgency by the group, which says it wants to apply Islamic sharia law across the country. It claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks across Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one at a church near Abuja that killed at least 37 people and wounded 57.  Read the full story here.

Hundreds of Christians have begun to flee northern Nigeria after dozens were killed in a series of attacks by Islamist militants who issued an ultimatum to Christians to leave the mainly Muslim region or be killed, witnesses said on Saturday. A Nigerian newspaper Tuesday published a warning from Boko Haram, a movement styled on the Taliban, that Christians had three days to get out of northern Nigeria. Since the expiry of that ultimatum, attacks in towns in four states in northeastern Nigeria have left at least 37 people dead and hundreds of Christians are fleeing to the south, according to residents and a Red Cross official. Read the full story here.

Nigeria’s Jonathan declares state of emergency against Islamist insurgency

(Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (C, with black hat) visits St. Theresa's Catholic church, the scene of a Christmas day bomb attack, just outside the capital Abuja, December 31, 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde )

President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in parts of Nigeria plagued by a violent Islamist insurgency, and ordered shut the borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger in the northeast. Coming nearly a week after radical sect Boko Haram set off a series of bombs across Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one at a church that killed at least 37 people and wounded 57, Jonathan told state television the measures would aim to restore security in troubled parts of Nigeria’s north.

“The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be resumed as soon as normalcy is restored,” he said on Saturday. He added that his chief of defence staff had been instructed to take other “appropriate” measures, including setting up a special counter-terrorism force.

Insight: Islamist attacks strain Nigeria’s north-south divide

(A sign is seen at a police check point near the main market following recent violent clashes in Nigeria's central city of Jos February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

The line dividing Christians from Muslims that runs along a rocky valley in the central Nigerian town of Jos may not be visible to the eye, but it burns in the minds of local people. The mosque lies barely 200 meters (yards) from the main church in the Congo-Russia neighborhood, a huddle of tin-roofed homes winding up a hill, and on its sandy pavements women in Muslim headscarves politely greet men wearing shiny crucifixes.

Jos, in Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt,” is historically a religious and ethnic tinderbox in the country’s sensitive North-South divide between Muslims and Christians. Deadly Christmas Day bomb attacks by shadowy Islamist sect Boko Haram – suspected of links to al Qaeda and with ambitions to impose Islamic sharia law in Nigeria – have stoked fears again of sectarian conflict in Africa’s top oil producer and most populous state.

Nigerian Christians warn of religious war after two dozen die in Christmas bombing

(A car burns at the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Northern Nigerian Christians said on Tuesday they feared that a spate of Chrtistmas Day bombings by Islamist militants that killed over two dozen people could lead to a religious war in Africa’s most populous country. The warning was made in a statement by the northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella organization comprising various denominations including Catholics, Protestant and Pentecostal churches.

The Boko Haram Islamist sect, which aims to impose sharia Islamic law across Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the blasts, the second Christmas in a row it has caused carnage at Christian churches.

Frankincense production is doomed, scientists warn

(Foreign visitors extract perfumed gum from a frankincense tree the Socotra island March 27, 2008. Socotra that is located in the Arabian Sea, 380 km (238 miles) south of mainland Yemen and 80 km west of the Horn of Africa. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Trees that produce frankincense, a fragrant resin used in incense and perfumes and a central part of the Christmas story, are declining so fast that production could be halved over the next 15 years, scientists said on Wednesday.

In a study published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology, ecologists from the Netherlands and Ethiopia looked at large-scale field studies and predicted that tree numbers could decline by 90 percent in the next 50 years. If fire, grazing and insect attack, the most likely causes of decline, remain unchecked, then frankincense production could be doomed altogether, they warned.

Nigerian security service says politicians sponsor Boko Haram Islamists

(Shattered remnants are seen at the site of a bomb blast at a bar in the Nigerian northeastern city of Maiduguri July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer)

Nigerian politicians are funding members of a radical Islamist sect responsible for dozens of shootings and bombings this year in the north and capital of Africa’s most populous nation, the state security service (SSS) has said.  Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is forbidden”, has carried out near daily attacks in the remote northeast in Borno state, where Nigeria borders Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Although parts of the sect say they want sharia law more widely applied across Nigeria and threaten international targets, most factions are focused on local issues and carry out politically motivated attacks.

In Nigeria’s northeast, some sympathy for Boko Haram’s violent Islamists

(Burnt vehicles are seen at the ECWA church compound in New Jerusalem area of Damaturu, Yobe state, North east Nigeria, November 8, 2011. Nigeria's police said on Tuesday they had arrested suspected members of an Islamist sect behind coordinated attacks in the north of the country. REUTERS/Olatunji Omirin)

Wiping grease onto his t-shirt outside his bicycle repair shack, Baba Gana points to a bomb blast site across the street and explains why this northeastern Nigerian town of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has sympathy for radical Islamists who terrorise its inhabitants.

The remote region has been elevated from obscurity in the last two years by the increasingly deadly Boko Haram, whose name in the local Hausa language translates as “Western education is forbidden”. The sect has carried out dozens of assassinations, shootings and bomb attacks in Borno state this year, often targeting military and religious figures.

Nigeria’s violent Islamists Boko Haram joining with global jihadists: army

(A man stands outside a burnt shed which housed a generator in Damaturu, Yobe state, North east Nigeria, November 8, 2011. Nigeria's police said on Tuesday they had arrested suspected members of an Islamist sect behind coordinated attacks in the north of the country that killed at least 65 people late last week. REUTERS/Olatunji Omirin)

A violent Islamist sect responsible for scores of killings in northeast Nigeria is increasingly linking up with global jihadist movements like al Qaeda, a military commander in the area told Reuters. Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, a senior military official in the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), was speaking at a government house at the end of dusty track in Maiduguri, the heartland of the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Boko Haram is al Qaeda,” he said. “I see perfect links. It cuts across boundaries. Al Qaeda has no boundary, Boko Haram has no boundary. All terrorists, one problem,” said Mohammed, dressed in camouflage and flanked by armed soldiers.

Pope Benedict expresses shame for Christian violence in history

(Pope Benedict XVI (C), Wande Abimbola (R) of Nigeria, Rabbi David Rosen (2nd R), Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodox Church Bartolomeo I attend the "Prayer for Peace," a inter-religious meeting in the Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi October 27, 2011. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)

Pope Benedict, leading a global inter-religious meeting, has acknowledged “with great shame” that Christianity had used force in its long history but said violence in God’s name had no place in the world today. Benedict spoke as he hosted some 300 religious leaders from around the world – including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Taoists, Shintoists and Buddhists – in an inter-faith prayer gathering for peace in the city of St Francis.

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith,” he said in his address to the delegations in an Assisi basilica on Thursday.  “We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature,” he said.

from Africa News blog:

Could Islamist rebels undermine change in Africa?

Creeping from the periphery in Africa’s east and west, Islamist militant groups now pose serious security challenges to key countries and potentially even a threat to the continent’s new success.

The biggest story in Africa south of the Sahara over the past few years hasn’t been plague, famine or war but the emergence of the world’s poorest continent as one of its fastest growing – thanks to factors that include fresh investment, economic reform, the spread of new technology, higher prices for commodity exports and generally greater political stability.

Nigeria and Kenya, the most important economies in West and East Africa respectively, are pillars of the change in Africa as well as having the largest and most easily accessible markets for foreigners.