ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Minority Christians in northern Nigeria were on edge Thursday, January 24, after militants killed at least 23 people for disobeying Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, residents said.
In the deadliest attack, suspected Islamic gunmen fired at a market in Borno state killing 18 people late Monday, January 21.
Local Chief Alhaji Abba Ahmed told reporters that the attack occurred in the Damboa village.
"Gunmen suspected to be members of [Islamic group Boko Haram] came to the town market and shot dead 13 local hunters on the spot while five others died from their injuries at the hospital," the official said in published remarks.
"They came to the market in a Volkswagen Golf car, carried out the operation and left."
MILITANTS TARGET HUNTERS
Locals said the militants appeared to have targeted the local hunters over their choice to sell "bush meat" such as pork and monkeys, forbidden by local Muslims.
In a separate incident Tuesday, January 22, suspected Islamic militants riding on motorbikes shot dead five people playing an outdoor board game in the northern city of Kano, some 500 km (310 miles) west of Damboa, witnesses and hospital sources said.
Two people were reportedly seriously wounded.
Authorities believe both attacks were carried out by Boko Haram, which means 'Western Education is a Sin'.
Damboa is in the remote northeast, the sect's heartland near the borders with Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
CARVED ISLAMIC STATE
Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state out of Nigeria, a country of 170 million people split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.
It has ordered Christians to leave the region and urged Muslims to move from southern areas to the north.
The latest attacks came after suspected Boko Haram fighters killed dozens of people, most of them Christians, since Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, attackers raided two churches, killing 12 people in the northern Nigerian state of Yobe.
Six days later, suspected Boko Haram fighters killed at least 15 Christian worshipers, slitting some of their throats, in Musari, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, where the Islamic militants are based, according to Nigerian authorities.
INSURGENCY THREAT SECURITY
Analysts view the insurgency as the top security threat to Africa's leading oil and gas producer.
The government has come under pressure to improve the protection of Christians, especially in Muslim-dominated regions of the country.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has been criticized over plans to deploy around 1,200 troops as part of a West African intervention force to combat Islamic militants occupying the north of Mali.
Critics fear Nigeria's involvement could further inflame its own insurgency.
However Jonathan told Reuters news agency that tackling "global jihadists" is in Nigeria's interest because of the links between its Islamists and those in the desert states to the north, like Mali.
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