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Monday, July 11, 2011

Nigeria: Bomb Explodes at All Christian-Fellowship Mission in Niger State, While Maiduguri Is Rocked by Violence

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SULEJA, NIGER STATE, NIGERIA (ANS) -- A man and two women died when a bomb exploded at the All Christian-Fellowship Mission in Suleja, Niger State on Sunday July 10, while Maiduguri in north eastern Nigeria was rocked by violence that has been described as the worst this year.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW - www.csw.org.uk ) , the blast in the Suleja church occurred just after 3pm, as several church members were taking part in a committee meeting after the church service. Two people died on the spot, including Justina Odogbo, the wife of the committee chair. Four others were critically injured, and were rushed to hospital, where one died.

Niger State is a state in the western part of Nigeria and the largest state in the country. The state capital is Minna, and other major cities are Bida, Kontagora, and Suleja. It was formed in 1976 when the then North-Western State was bifurcated into Niger State and Sokoto State. The state is named for the River Niger.

Suleja is situated close to the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The area may have been picked as a softer target, since security in the capital has been tightened and a curfew is in place there.

CSW says that although no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, the attack follows unconfirmed reports of a message issued by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram warning Nigerians to avoid Christians, security agents, and government institutions and functions, or risk death.

CSW stated that over the weekend the north-eastern city of Maiduguri suffered a further upsurge in violence, which one resident described as “hell let loose.”

In a media advisory, CSW said that on Saturday night, two days after the Borno State government banned the use of motorcycles in order to thwart further attacks by Boko Haram, multiple explosions rocked parts of Maiduguri.

Also on Saturday, members of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) charged with security in the state are reported to have gone “on a rampage and caused a lot of havoc” after an army patrol was targeted in a bomb and gun attack by Boko Haram.

According to local residents, the military closed off the area where the attack occurred, and went from house to house rounding up and executing males within a certain age bracket, who were deemed to be possible members of Boko Haram.

On Sunday, churches in Maiduguri remained closed following the previous night’s violence and warnings of imminent targeted attacks by the Islamist group.

Stuart Windsor, Special Ambassador for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, “If the alleged Boko Haram statement is accurate and their target is now shifting increasingly towards the church, Christians are in greater danger than ever, as their places of worship provide soft targets.”

Windsor said: “It is vital that state and federal authorities ensure that adequate protection is afforded to these establishments, and that security is deployed during church services. However, reports of possible irregular actions and extra-judicial executions by some members of the JTF are deeply worrying and must be investigated as a matter of urgency.”

He added: “It is crucial that security arrangements for the country as a whole and for Maiduguri in particular are conducted with sensitivity, in order not to alienate and further victimize innocent members of the public, who are already traumatized by the actions of this violent group.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk  or visit www.csw.org.uk  .


** Michael Ireland is Senior Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter

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