By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militant group Boko Haram is stepping up attacks in heavily Christian towns and village in Nigeria’s troubled northeast, killing more than 750 people since May 29, Christian rights activists say.
News of the violence came after Boko Haram militants were pushed back by Nigeria’s military when they tried to to gain access to Maiduguri, Borno State’s largest city.
“The increase in terrorist violence can be seen partly as Boko Haram’s challenge to [Nigerian] President [Muhammadu] Buhari’s campaign statement that he would end the insurgency within three months,” said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), a Christian aid and advocacy group.
Now calling itself the ‘West African Province of the Islamic State’, this “terrorist group has also pledged allegiance” to Islamic State in March of 2015 — “responding to the call to ‘make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels’,”VOMC told BosNewsLife in a statement.
Christian observers say that Boko Haram’s strategy includes inciting fellow Muslims against Christians, after its members attacked multiple mosques on July 1 and July 2. And on July 5, five gunmen reportedly stormed a mosque in Plateau State, shooting randomly before a suicide bomber struck.
Later in the evening, another suicide bomber detonated a device in a crowded restaurant.
That same day, six other people, including a pastor and a mother carrying her child, all died when a suicide bomber detonated a device at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Potiskum, Yobe State, Christians said.
“Given northern Nigeria’s history of religious crises, the attacks on Muslim and public sites may have been Boko Haram’s attempt to reignite old hostilities,” VOMC said in a comment.
It qouted its sources as saying that angry Muslim militants subsequently burned St. Michael’s African Church, damaged vehicles, vandalized Christian businesses and attacked the Evangelical Church Winning All Good News building.
“Boko Haram has illustrated its utter disregard for every religious creed, including the one it purports to be upholding, and for the sanctity of human life,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
VOMC told BosNewsLife it has urged Christian supporters to pray for fellow believers in Nigeria.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods as a result of the multiple atrocities.
Let’s pray for God’s peace and comfort not only to be upon the attacked Christians, but to all in Nigeria who have lost dear loved ones as a result of the recent tragedies.”
VOMC said it has asked its partners to “Pray that the country’s believers will shine as lights — compassionately reaching out to non-Christians and Muslims who are also suffering. As a result, may the love of Jesus and the message of salvation be revealed to many.”
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