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Africa

Suspected Islamists attack churches near Nigeria’s Chibok

© Photo: AFP (file photo)

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-29

Suspect Boko Haram Islamists armed with explosives attacked a series of churches on Sunday near Chibok, the northeastern town where more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped in April, witnesses said.

Residents said dozens of people may have been killed in the raids on villages roughly 10 kilometres, (six miles) outside of Chibok, but no one was able to offer an authoritative death toll and the military was not immediately available to comment.

"The attackers went to churches with bombs and guns," Timothy James, a Chibok resident said by phone.

"From what I gathered, dozens of worshippers, including men, women and children were killed," he said, explaining that his information had come from people who fled the affected area and through phone calls.

Enoch Mark, an outspoken Chibok leader since the April 14 kidnappings, gave a similar account, telling AFP in Lagos, "presently, as we are talking now, we are under attack".

"We cannot tell the number of dead bodies," he added. "I was told the attackers burnt at least three churches to the ground."

Mark further said that the military had not responded to distress calls after the attack began.

"They just went and got a hiding place in the bush," he told AFP.

Violence in Nigeria’s northeast has been relentless in the past year, and has gained in intensity since April, the month that more than 200 schoolgirls were snatched by Boko Haram rebels from Chibok. Efforts to free them, which have attracted Western support, have so far not succeeded.

Boko Haram, which is fighting for an Islamic state in largely Muslim northern Nigeria, has killed thousands since launching an uprising on 2009, and many hundreds in the past three months.

Soldiers killed in attack on military outpost

It is by far the biggest security threat to Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer, and has overshadowed government efforts to project an image of Nigeria as prospective economic giant and massive investment prospect.

In a separate assault on Friday evening, the insurgents killed seven soldiers at a military outpost in the village of Goniri, in Yobe state, a security source and witnesses said.

The fighters arrived in four armoured personel carriers and 11 hilux trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, said a security source and a witness who gave his name only as Hamisu.

“They were all dressed in full military but they did not direct their onslaught on the civilian population,” Hamisu said by telephone.

Meanwhile, an explosion on Friday night in a brothel in the northeastern Nigerian city of Bauchi killed 11 people and wounded 28, police said on Saturday, an attack also believed to be the work of Boko Haram.

A military operation in the northeast has so far failed to quell the rebellion and has triggered reprisal attacks that are increasingly targeting civilians, after they formed vigilante groups to try to help the government flush out the militants.

But their tactics - often striking then fleeing over the border into Cameroon - have repeatedly proved devastating. They are well armed and funded by a lucrative kidnapping operation.

The militants are extending their reach beyond their remote northeastern heartlands. A bomb in an upmarket shopping district of the capital Abuja killed 21 people on Wednesday, the third attack on the capital in three months.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-06-29

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