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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sixty-three people killed in Nigeria Boko Haram attack

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DAMATURU, NIGERIA (ANS) -- The Red Cross says a series of bomb and gun attacks in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Damaturu has killed at least 63 people.

Regional map of Nigeria showing location of Damaturu
(Graphic via BBC website).

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website reports witnesses said the bombs hit several targets, including churches and the headquarters of the Yobe state police.

The BBC said many people are reported to have fled the town after a night of violence.

It stated the Islamist militant group Boko Haram told a newspaper it was behind the attack and that it planned to hit further government targets.

According to the BBC, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan said he was "greatly disturbed" by the attack, and that his government was working hard to bring those "determined to derail peace and stability in the country to book."

A series of attacks on security forces in the nearby city of Maiduguri recently have also been blamed on Boko Haram.

Nigerian Red Cross official Ibrahim Bulama, in Damaturu, told the BBC at least 63 people had been killed there.

He said two other people had been killed in attacks elsewhere. News agencies said the nearby town of Potiskum had also been attacked.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, says this attack appears to be Boko Haram's bloodiest strike to date.

People visiting morgues have reported seeing 92 bodies, the BBC correspondent said.

The BBC also reported that an unnamed local government official in Damaturu was quoted by AFP news agency as saying that hundreds of wounded people were being treated in hospital.

Witnesses said the attacks began on Friday at about 6:30 p.m. local timeand lasted for about 90 minutes. Gunmen then engaged in running battles with security forces, the BBC said.

The BBC said a Roman Catholic parish priest told its correspondent his church had been burnt down and eight other churches also attacked. He described gangs of young men roaming the streets throwing improvised bombs into the churches.

The attacks followed a triple suicide bomb attack on a military headquarters in Maiduguri, in neighboring Borno state. Military officials said the three attackers had died.

The BBC explained that Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden," has launched frequent attacks on the police and government officials.

A known spokesman for the group contacted called Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper to claim responsibility for the attacks on Maiduguri and Damaturu, the BBC reported.

"We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop their excesses on our members and vulnerable civilians," the spokesman said.

In analysis of the situation, Jonah Fisher, BBC News correspondent in Lagos, says the attack on Damaturu directly contradicts the government's oft-repeated line that they are about to "solve" Nigeria's Boko Haram problem.

Fisher says that far from disappearing, Nigeria's Islamic militants appear to be evolving and gaining strength.

He stated the attack on the United Nations building in Abuja in August shocked many because it showed Boko Haram no longer regarded their enemy as being just the Nigerian security forces.

He added the attacks on Damaturu are Boko Haram's bloodiest strike to date. The main target was once again the police but the scope and power of the assault certainly does not suggest a problem that's about to go away.

Boko Haram: Timeline of terror

2002: Founded
2009: Hundreds killed when Maiduguri police stations stormed
2009: Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf captured by army, handed to police, later found dead
Sep 2010: Freed hundreds of prisoners from Maiduguri jail
Dec 2010: Bombed Jos, killing 80 people and blamed for New Year's Eve attack on Abuja barracks
2010-2011: Dozens killed in Maiduguri shootings
May 2011: Bombed several states after president's inauguration
Jun 2011: Police HQ bombed in Abuja
Aug 2011: UN HQ bombed in Abuja

** 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 make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter

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