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Nigerian Islamic Extremists Take Credit for Attacks on Christians on Christmas Eve

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An extremist Islamic organization took credit for multiple attacks in Nigeria on Christmas Eve that resulted in the death of a Baptist pastor and the burning of Victory Baptist Church in Maiduguri. Four bombs also exploded in Jos with estimates as high as 82 deaths.

In a video posted last week on the website Saharareporters, the terrorist group explained their attacks in Jos.

“We are responsible for the attack,” said a spokesman who read in Arabic from a script that was translated into English. “If you don’t know us, we are Jama’atu ahlus sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad which was falsely labeled Boko Haram, and we did this because our Creator has ordered us to wage war on everyone who does not embrace the religion of Islam after preaching to them.”

Sitting in front a maroon-flowered carpet with a military weapon to his right, the spokesman said that Muslims were under attack in Nigeria.

“[T]his is a war between Muslims and non-Muslims. So where ever you are, you should be weary. This is not a tribal war, nor is it similar to the wars of the pre-Islamic era. It is not a war for financial gains. It is solely a religious war. We did not start this war so it would end in one week, or one month or one year,” said the spokesman.

He concluded the almost seven-minute video with a warning against Muslims helping non-Muslims: “If he helps any non-Muslim and in so doing, a fellow Muslim suffers due to that, he should know that he is a dead person.”

Media reports identified the terrorist group as Boko Haram, which Associated Press translated as “Western education is sacrilege.”

Al Jazeera said that the group changed its name to “Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad, which translates roughly to ‘People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad.'”

In a lengthy mid-December news story, AP reported that the Nigerian military had in July 2009 destroyed the mosque in Maiduguri where the leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was the imam. He later died in police custody.

The group attacked in September 2010 a prison in Bauchi and freed more than 100 members.

After the Christmas Eve violence, more attacks occurred in Maiduguri, where three police officers were killed.

BBC reported at the end of December that the police had arrested in Maiduguri 92 suspected members of Boko Haram, including the organization’s financier. Attacks also occurred in other Nigerian cities. No group has taken credit for the bombing in Abuja, the nation’s capital, or the two bombings in Yenegoa, located in southern Nigeria.

Nigeria’s newspaper, The Guardian, reported that the religious leaders of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) condemned the Christmas-related attacks.

The sultan of Sokoto and president general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Mohammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, and pastor and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayodele Joseph Oritsejafor, said at a joint press conference that the “seemingly unending killings and violence in Jos must stop immediately.”

They said that NIREC wanted to build “a new culture of tolerance, peace and unity among religious adherents in the country.”

NIREC’s executive secretary, Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin and a professor of Islamic studies, said in a statement, “It is sad that in spite of all the efforts of the Council as well as other stakeholders in restoring lasting peace in Jos, it has degenerated into deep ethnic hatred with religious colorations.”

Condemning the attacks in Maiduguri, he said, “It is ungodly, barbaric and inhuman to take life of a fellow human being unjustifiably.”

Yusufu Ameh Obaje, former president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention and former NIREC executive secretary, told EthicsDaily.com in 2004 that the NIREC was evenly divided among Muslims and Christians and that the council’s goal was to promote peaceful coexistence.

Nigeria’s population is estimated at 150 million people with an even division between Muslims predominantly in the northern part of the country and Christians in the south.

The Nigerian Baptist Convention reported in 2006 having 2.5 million members and 9,300 churches.