By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– A tense calm returned Wednesday, March 11, to the streets of Nigeria’s troubled town of Gidan-Waya in Kaduna State after at least six Christians were killed here by Nigerian soldiers, officials and residents said.
The shooting during Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church underscored the tense relationship between local Christians and government forces.
Nigeria’s army and police have been criticized by residents and activists of abuses and not doing enough to protect minorities against ongoing Islamic attacks, BosNewsLife learned.
Sunday’s violence reportedly began when an army commander was stopped by church guards as part of security measures following recent church bombings.
After he refused to be searched, soldiers soon arrived at the scene opening fire killing five people at the church, witnesses said. Another Christian was reportedly killed near the church while returning home.
A soldier was reportedly killed and several people were injured in clashes that followed the shooting, though details remained confusing.
Nigerian Army Colonel Othman Abdul told Nigerian media defended the military actions saying residents had provoked the troops.
He said locals had tried to lynch the officer over his refusal to be searched by church security, before the arrival of other soldiers. “But I am not aware of the shooting. The soldiers withdrew after saving the officer,” he was quoted as saying, despite several witnesses claiming to have seen the attacks.
Nigerian media said the officer’s residence was set alight by furious residents who stole two rifles in the house, but later returned one of the weapons.
Amid the violence students of nearby Kaduna State College of Education were seen fleeing
the institution after reports that a fellow student was also among the Christians killed in the
The clashes were expected to put pressure on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, to discipline his forces at a time when Islamic group Boko Haram remains a threat to churches and believers.
This week at least 15 soldiers from Chad and Niger died in fighting to take control of two towns in northern Nigeria from Boko Haram, the first gains against the militants in a joint offensive launched at the weekend, military sources said.
About 30 Nigerien and Chadian soldiers were reportedly wounded in Monday’s clashes over Malam Fatouri and Damasak, a day after thousands of troops crossed the border to seize areas held by the Sunni Islamist group.
The insurgency of Boko Haram, which translates as ‘Western Education is Sinful’,
forced Nigeria to delay presidential elections and neighbors to mobilize their armies.
Boko Haram is still holding hundreds of Christian school girls and women, many of whom have allegedly been sold as slaves and forced to embrace Islam.