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Islamic insurgency in Nigeria: Boko Haram takes credit for Sunday attacks on Christians

Ibrahim GarbaThe Christian Science Monitor

Nigeria's Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram today claimed responsibility for weekend attacks in the restive city of Jos in Plateau state.

In a press release written in local dialect of Hausa and signed by Boko Haram leader Abul Qaqa, the sect said, "We thank God for our success in the attack on Christians at Barikin Ladi and Riyom, whereby security agents, Christians and two state and national assembly members were killed."

The statement continued with a warning: "We are also informing Christians all over the country to embrace Islam or they will be attacked. If they fail to do so, there is nobody to blame but themselves."

"More attacks will be carried out as we have successfully done at Plateau and Kano on Christians and security informers. … Kano people must desist from giving information to security agents who are attacking them and their hired houses in Kano."

The statement comes after weekend attacks and reprisals between the mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and mainly Christian Birom people in the villages around the central Nigerian city of Jos. Initial news reports indicated that the fighting was due to disputes over land, with government officials evicting the Fulani tribesmen from certain pastures around Jos, and with Fulani herdsmen taking out their anger on Birom Christians' homes and churches. Two Nigerian officials, a senator and an assemblyman, were killed while attending a Saturday mass funeral of 63 Birom church members. Birom reprisals raised the weekend death toll to 200.

While conflicts between herdsmen and sedentary farmers are common in rural Nigeria, it is possible that Boko Haram took advantage of local disputes to further their own political mission in fighting against Christian and Western influences, and against the secular Nigerian government. More than 2,000 people have been killed since the Boko Haram insurgency began in late 2009.

In the Boko Haram statement, which the Monitor obtained today, Abul-Qaqa insisted that the sect will leave no stone unturned in its goal of forcing all Christians out of the country. The statement also denied assertions from Nigerian National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki that he has made contact with Boko Haram, and found them ready to negotiate. "The claim made by the National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Sambo Dasuki, is a lie and has no iota of truth."

Following the Jos attacks, President Goodluck Jonathan held a two-hour emergency meeting with security chiefs, after which Mr. Jonathan vowed to arrest the culprits.

But Boko Haram, in their statement, said they would continue to target Nigerian soldiers and security officials, even in their homes. There will be "no hiding place or rest for any government agents and security," the statement read, "because we are going to carry out attacks on them and their houses."