Originally published in Christian Headlines
Terrorism by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stretched into Taraba state, Nigeria for the first time on April 19, killing six Christians, sources said.
After an explosion killed the six Christians and wounded more than a dozen others at Christian-owned market where alcohol was served in Isware, Ardo Kola County, ISWAP released a statement on a Telegram messaging channel asserting that it had detonated the explosive at “a gathering of infidel Christians,” according to local news reports.
ISWAP, an offshoot of Boko Haram, described its operatives as “soldiers of the caliphate in central Nigeria.”
Police spokesman Abdullahi Usman said in an April 20 statement that six persons were killed, and that more than a dozen wounded people were receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo.
Area residents said the shop is owned by a Christian, Elizabeth Danjuma.
“A loud explosion occurred at a shop owned by a Christian woman whose name is Elizabeth Danjuma,” Martins Lauje, an area Christian leader, told Morning Star News by text message. “The explosive device was thrown by a terrorist into her shop, and it exploded, killing six Christians and injuring 20 other Christians who are currently receiving treatment in hospitals.”
The Rev Dr Isaiah Magaji Jirapye, chairman of the Taraba state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), condemned the attack in a press statement, saying the “federal government is not doing enough to win the fight against terrorism in the country as each day the terrorists keep on advancing. To this end, CAN wants the federal government to immediately adopt workable strategies against any form of terrorist organizations in the country and stop their migration, as several of them have migrated to Taraba state.”
While ISWAP has long carried out assaults in northeastern Nigeria, the Islamic extremists had not been active in Taraba until the attack, which was followed by another on April 22. An Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram in 2016 formally aligned with the Islamic State and changed its name to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), though many Nigerians still refer to the Shekau-led faction of ISWAP by its original name, Boko Haram.
The Islamic State recognizes the ISWAP faction that broke away from Shekau as its cell in the region, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
ISWAP also claimed responsibility for an attack on April 22 near a bar in Jailingo’s Nukkai District that wounded 11 people, including children, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“These latest incidents are a symptom of the spreading Islamist insurgencies that have been active in Nigeria’s northeast for over a decade, as IS-affiliated groups expand their operational areas,” OCHA said on its Relief Web site. “It’s a trend that warrants close monitoring within the overall patterns of Islamist insurgencies in Africa and northern Africa, as well as in the study of shifting dynamics amongst Islamist and other religious armed groups.”
Yobe State attacks
In Yobe state, also in northeast Nigeria, suspected Islamic extremist militants on April 20 killed 12 Christians in the town of Geidam, local sources said.
Some of the slain Christians were public high school teachers at a staff housing facility of the Government Science and Technical College, Geidam, and others were staying at a Christian-owned guest house. The assailants first asked them to recite passages of the Koran, said Geidam resident Isa Adamu.
“The attacks by the Boko Haram occurred at about 10 p.m.,” Adamu said. “The terrorists slit the throats of 12 Christians in all. Christians killed in Geidam town were identified by their inability to recite passages from the Koran. The terrorists asked the victims to recite passages from the Koran, and since they couldn’t, they were killed.”
Yobe state police spokesman Dungus Abdulkareem confirmed the attack but offered few details, saying only that a retired policeman and two females were among those slain.
In Gashua, in Yobe state’s Bade County, suspected Islamic extremist militants on April 24 detonated explosives at a Christian-owned bar that killed one person and injured seven others, area residents said.
Local Council official Sanda Kara-Bade said in a statement that an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killed one person and wounded seven others in the Abasha area of Gashua. Police authorities confirmed the fatality and injuries.
On Tuesday (April 26), military personnel reportedly arrested Muslim civilians and a soldier under suspicion of spying for ISWAP. The soldier suspected of collaborating with ISWAP in the Gashua and Geidam attacks was reported to have shot himself dead after his arrest.
“Right now, we have arrested some civilian collaborators he mentioned in his confession during the initial interrogation,” a military intelligence source told news outlet PRNigeria.com. “I can categorically tell you that other bad elements within our security apparatus are being investigated.”
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4 650, up from 3 530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.
Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.
In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.
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