By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and Joseph DeCaro
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Suspected Islamic militants in northern Nigeria have slit the throats of 15 Christians, shortly after at least a dozen Christians were killed by gunmen in separate attacks, relief officials and Christians said Monday, December 31.
“From the information we gathered, the attackers broke into selected homes and slaughtered 15 people in their sleep,” an anonymous relief official told reporters.
Authorities had previously confirmed the predawn Friday attack in Musari, but gave few details and said only five were killed, news reports said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Musari is located on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the base of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which fights for an Islamic state.
CHRISTMAS EVE KILLINGS
News of the violence came as army and local officials confirmed that gunmen in the northern Nigerian state of Yobe shot dead at least six Christians on Christmas Eve.
The Evangelical Church of West Africa in Peri village near Potiskum, the economic capital of Yobe, was also set on fire in the attack, witnesses said.
In another attack that night, worshipers at the First Baptist Church in Maiduguri were reportedly shot by unknown gunman, leaving a deacon and five of his congregation dead.
Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is a sin’, did not immediately claim these attacks but it has been known to target Christians and their places of worship, especially around the holidays.
The group is believed to be responsible for killing over 3,000 people since it began an armed insurgency in 2009.
“Earlier this year, Boko Haram demanded all Christians leave Nigeria’s North,” said William Stark, the regional manager for Africa of rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).
“Since then, the group has continued to wage a campaign of terror against those Christians who decided to stay,” he added.
Stark said the United States was still deciding whether to designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
“If given [it] would allow the U.S. to seize Boko Haram’s assets under U.S. jurisdiction. This would help stem the flow of arms and funds the group receives from sources outside Nigeria’s borders,” Stark explained.
In the meantime, activists say, Christians inside Nigeria’s borders continue “to live in fear” especially during the holidays.
Africa’s top oil producing nation of 170 million people is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Boko Haram has in the past ordered Christians to leave the north and urged more Muslims to settle there.
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