The militant Islamic sect Boko Haram continues its rampagethrough Borno state, in northeast Nigeria. “Several churches are in ruins and tens ofthousands, mainly Christians, are running to escape Boko Haram,” according to Fr.Patrick Tor Alumuku, Social Communications officer in the archdiocese ofAbuja, the Nigerian capital.
“I spoke to priests in Maiduguri who speak of terrifying happenings,” FrPatrick said. “Boko Haram is determined to eliminate every sign of Christianpresence and many churches have been destroyed or torched. Last week in avillage in the area of Maiduguri, Boko Haram took over the parish for its localheadquarters.”
Senator AhmedZannah of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Borno Central atthe National Assembly, on Saturday warned the military to be at alert, sayingthat Boko Haram may soon attack Borno State.
He noted that the foot-soldiers had relocated fron Bama totheir Sambisa forest stronghold and might launch a major attack on Maidugurisoon.
According to the senator, since the members of the sect werechased out of the state capital over a year ago, it had always been in theirplan to return to recapture it.
The Islamists have been capturing new cities on an almost daily basis, arriving in hijacked army vehicles and terrorizing the residents. “Boko Haram are committing all kinds of atrocities killing and raping. At the same time they are taking young girls in batches and the city is littered with dead bodies,” says Ahmed Zanna, a member of the Nigerian Senate for the town of Bama. Bama is just 43.5 miles from Maiduguri and fell to the Islamists several days ago. Zanna recounts how the soldiers who were supposed to defend Bama, refused to advance any further. “They were ill equipped and they just stayed in Kondudga.”
Maiduguri would be a major win for Boko Haram in their hope of creating an Islamist-ruled state. “Even a brief capture of Borno’s capital will be a significant symbolic victory for Boko Haram,” said Ryan Cummings, a member of the Nigerian Security Networks. Capturing Maiduguri would give Boko Haram a very strong boost, believes the Nigerian expert Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group. With Maiduguri, the Islamists would not only control a major city but also an international airport.
According to information sent from the Bishopof Maiduguri, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme, “in areas where Boko Haram isactive Christians are fleeing by the thousands.” The bishop says that at least90,000 Catholics are displaced.
“However among the crowds of Christians in flight there arealso Muslims,” Fr Patrick told FidesNews Agency. “Some are chiefs of villages and towns, others are Muslim religiousleaders (Emirs) who cannot identify with what is being committed by BokoHaram”.
Thepriest added that a good number of these displaced persons cannot escape fromthe combat areas and getting humanitarian aid to them is very difficult. “If acity like Maiduguri with a population of more than one million were to beattacked by the Boko Haram offensive,” he continued, “the result would be anextremely serious humanitarian disaster.”