Mayhem in Nigeria: 150 killed in gun and bomb attacks by Boko Haram
Special to USAfricaonline.com and the USAfrica-powered e-group Nigeria360
Damataru, Nigeria: The assault on the security of lives and communities took a more dramatic turn today Saturday November 5, 2011, as, at least 150 people were killed in a “heinous” wave of gun, suicide and bomb attacks in locations within the northern Nigeria.
USAfrica reporters in Nigeria and wire services say the attacks have since been claimed by the Islamist radical group, Boko Haram.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned, through his media spokesman, adding he has “directed security agencies to ensure the arrest of perpetrators of these heinous acts.”
As corpses piled up in the morgue, a rescue agency official, told AFP the body count stood at 150.
“I was involved in the evacuation of corpses to the morgue. I personally counted 150 bodies,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at the hospital. He said some families had already collected their loved ones for burial, reducing the number to 97 by end of the day.
An AFP reporter counted 97 corpses still in the mortuary.
The Red Cross earlier said the death toll stood at 63, while police spoke of 53, of whom 11 were members of its force.
“From our inventory, 53 people have so far been killed in the attack,” said local police chief Suleimon Lawal.
A member of Nigeria’s Islamist Boko Haram sect on Saturday claimed responsibility.
“We are responsible for the attack in (northeastern) Borno (state) and Damaturu,” Abul Qaqa told an AFP correspondent by phone.
“We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop persecuting our members and vulnerable civilians,” Qaqa warned.
The Friday bomb and gun attacks, targeted police stations, an army base and churches in the cities of Damaturu, Maiduguri and two other small towns.
Jonathan’s spokesman said the attacks had forced him to skip his brother’s wedding which took place in his village in southern Nigerian on Saturday.
The military deployed to curb the violence in Maiduguri said there were four suicide bomb attacks in parts of the city, including an army base and on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
The attackers bombed their targets then took on the security forces in gun battles in Damaturu. Residents said gunfire rang out for several hours across the city after the explosions.
“It was a suicide bomb attack at one of our buildings. The attacker came in a Honda CRV and rammed into the building and explosives exploded,” Lawal told AFP.
An AFP reporter said no office was still standing at the police HQ which was still smouldering some 24 hours after the attack. Three burnt cars lay in front of the building.
A journalist described scenes of chaos and destruction in Damaturu.
“In fact, Damaturu is looking just like Libya… burnt cars and buildings.”
In a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Damaturu called Jerusalem, six churches were bombed in addition to a police station.
“A police station and a mechanical workshop of the police were attacked. Six churches in the area were also bombed,” said resident Edwin Silas, adding: “The whole city is traumatised.”
The string of attacks came two days ahead of the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.
Police have been placed on red alert nationwide.
Militants from Boko Haram, whose name means “Western Education Is Sin” in the regional Hausa language, have in the past targeted police and military, community and religious leaders, as well as politicians.
The sect, which wants to see the establishment of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, staged an uprising which was brutally put down by security forces in 2009.
Nigeria’s more than 160 million people are divided almost in half between Muslims and Christians, living roughly in the north and south of the country respectively. Regions where they overlap are prey to frequent tensions. AFP/wk/ca/USAfrica