JOS, Nigeria (BP) -- Suspected Islamic extremists attacked a TV viewing center in Jos, Nigeria, April 24, in a Christian area of the city where a crowd had gathered to watch a soccer match.
|Nigeria, highlighted in green. Graphic courtesy CIA.gov.|
At about 10:15 p.m. at the viewing center, one of many such establishments popular for watching soccer in Nigeria, attackers drove past the site and threw an explosive device at hundreds of Christians watching soccer, eyewitnesses told Compass Direct News.
Some 10 minutes after the bombing, security agents evacuated the injured to a nearby hospital. Medical personnel at the hospital were treating at least four people under strict supervision of police and other security agents.
Soldiers and police under Nigeria's Joint Military Task Force charged with keeping peace in the country's embattled Plateau state cordoned off the area around the establishment. Authorities have not commented on whether the Islamic sect Boko Haram is responsible for the attack.
The bombing marks the second time in two weeks that the Christian area, Tudun Wada, has been attacked. Boko Haram, which seeks to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, was suspected of a detonating a bomb a few yards from the center during Easter celebrations, injuring five Christians. Various churches in Tudun Wada commonly use the site as a base for evangelistic campaigns.
With Christians and Muslims living in close but separate quarters of the Tudun Wada area, the attacks have heightened tensions between the two communities. Eight churches are located in the area -- Christ Way Baptist Church, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Bishara 2, Angwan Yashi, ECWA Good News Church, Assemblies of God Church, Redeemed Peoples Mission, Solid Rock Church and Deeper Life Bible Church.
Last year, suspected Islamic extremists bombed three TV viewing centers in Christian areas near Jos on Dec. 10. A few minutes into a soccer match televised at a viewing center in the village of Ukadum, a bomb went off, killing a 31-year-old man. During the same game, bombs exploded at viewing centers in two other predominantly Christian areas of Jos, injuring at least 10 others, including several who were left critically injured or in a coma.
Nigeria's Plateau state has become especially volatile as it lies between the country's predominantly Muslim north and Christian south. Nigeria's population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.
The attacks were waged on the heels of a suicide bomber's Easter killing of at least 38 people in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna.
Security personnel at a church had blocked the bomber, believed to belong to the Boko Haram sect. The bomber then drove away, detonating his explosives in the street at a nearby motorcycle taxi center, sources told Compass Direct. In addition to those killed, dozens of people were injured.
The bombs damaged the buildings of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Good News and All Nations Christian Assembly, besides blasting off roofs from nearby homes and hotels and destroying vehicles.
Law enforcement agents believe the ECWA Good News church was the bomber's primary target, a source told Compass.
"He tried forcing his way past [the church's security blockade], but the security man stood in between him and the blockade," the source recounted. "He even pushed him a ways before some policemen manning the gate of the church rushed down to the scene. … [T]he police, fully armed, told him to move away. He drove away in a reckless manner. As we were regretting not searching his car, in about four to five minutes, we heard an earth-shaking explosion. The car that exploded was the same car that wanted to enter here."
Suspected Boko Haram attacks in the Jos area in February left three worshippers dead at a Church of Christ in Nigeria service and three people dead at a Mass at St. Finbar's Catholic Church, one of the largest Catholic parishes in the city of some 10 million people.
Boko Haram (literally "Forbidden Book," translated as "Western education is forbidden") has targeted not only Christians but state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government and impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria.
Suspected Islamic extremists also detonated a bomb outside a church building in the city of Suleja in Nigeria's Niger state, in February, two months after a Boko Haram bombing killed 44 Christians and blinded seven on Christmas Day at a church in nearby Madalla.
Adapted from reports by Compass Direct News (www.compassdirect.org), a news service based in Santa Ana, Calif., focusing on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.