By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– The leader of Nigeria’s feared Boko Haram group says a northeastern town is now part of an Islamic caliphate after his militants killed more than 100 civilians there, most of them Christians.
Abubakar Shekau said Allah had made sure his Islamic fighters could capture Gwoza, a once-predominantly Christian town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon in Borno State. “Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” he explained in a video message monitored by BosNewsLife Monday, August 25.
Boko Haram militants were seen executing dozens of civilians while declaring the ‘caliphate’, the word used for an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a ‘calpih’.
Nigeria’s military soon rejected the Boko Haram’s victory claim, saying in a statement the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact”.
In a July video, Shekau voiced support for the leader of Islamic State (IS) militants Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in late June declared himself “the caliph” and “leader of Muslims everywhere”. IS has been forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians to leave their homes in Iraq and Syria, threatening them with execution unless they embrace Islam.
Gwoza was captured by Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is sinful’, on August 5, prompting the massacre of more than 100 civilians, many of whom have been identified as Christians, witnesses said.
Orders by Nigerian military leadership to retake Gwoza were reportedly rejected by local troops refusing to engage Boko Haram without having first received heavy arms and equipment upgrades.
In the 52-minute video, Boko Haram declared the caliphate saying Gwoza now has “nothing to do with Nigeria ” They showed-off multiple pick-up trucks sporting large machine guns in their beds, and executed civilians, presumably from Gwoza, after forcing them to lay face-down in a ditch dug.
For weeks, Boko Haram has attacked and occupied towns that loosely encircle the capital of Borno State, Maiduguri, as part of a wider campaign to declare a strict Islamic state.
Boko Haram has been inspired by late Mohammed Yusuf, a radicalized cleric and fell under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau in 2009.
The group has since targeted Christians as well as moderate Muslims, educators, students, and military and law enforcement personnel.
Boko Haram, which has been affiliated with the terror group al-Qaida and al-Shabaab militants, has conducted attacks both in Nigeria and Cameroon and is linked to the mass kidnappings of more than 270 Christian schoolgirls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria.
An official of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) said the declaration of a caliphate in northeast Nigeria should worry the world.
“Such a declaration should serve as rallying point for the international community to come together and lend its full support to the Nigerian state in its battle against Boko Haram, and all other extreme ideologies plaguing the stability of not only that state, but the entire region,” said Cameron Thomas, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa.
“We mourn with the families of those brutally executed on camera, and join with others in praying for the security and well-being of those under the oppressive hand of the world’s newest self-declared regime,” he added.
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