Lifestyle & Belief

Nigeria: Islamic school bombed, Christian family murdered amid fears of 'religious war'


Nigeria has increased its security following a number of deadly attacks by Boko Haram, a group of Islamic extremists. Here a Nigerian soldier interrogates motorcyclists at a checkpoint in Kaduna State.


Pius Utomi Ekpei

An Arabic school in the south of Nigeria was bombed Tuesday night, wounding seven people. The same evening, a Christian couple and their baby were shot in the center of the country, in what observers fear could be rising inter-religious violence.

Unknown attackers threw a homemade bomb into the school in Sapele town, in Delta state, at around 10 PM last night, the South African Press Agency reported.

Six children were among those hurt. Aged between five and eight years old, they had been at the school for evening classes in Arabic and the Koran, police said.

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Such attacks are rare so far south, according to the Associated Press. Southern Nigeria is predominantly populated by Christians, while mostly Muslims live in the north. Tensions are highest in the center of the country, the AP said, where the two regions meet.

Last night in central Plateau state, a Christian couple and their young child were shot dead near their home in Uwuk village. Details of the attack are unclear: the AP reported that the child was 1-year-old, while Agence France Presse said a 3-year-old girl was killed. According to AFP, the victims were stabbed as well as shot.

Police suspect Fulani - Muslim herdsmen - were responsible for the murders, according to state spokesperson Pam Ayuba. Fulani have been blamed for previous attacks in the area, including reprisal violence against local Christians who had attacked one of their settlements at the beginning of this year.

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It is not known whether either attack was linked to the Christmas Day bombings at churches across Nigeria, for which radical Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. Some 90,000 people in the north-east city of Damaratu have been displaced in recent days as security forces crack down on Boko Haram members, the BBC reported.

The latest outbreak of violence has prompted some Nigerians to talk of a "religious war" between Muslims and Christians. A northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which represents various denominations throughout the country, has called on Muslim leaders to help stop the attacks, according to the Daily Mail. CAN secretary general for 19 northern provinces, Saidu Dogo, is quoted as saying:

"We fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive one. Once again, 'Enough is enough!'

"We shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country."

However, other religious leaders said such fears were exaggerated. Nigeria's leading Muslim cleric, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Mohammed Sa'ad Abubakar, met President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday to discuss the Boko Harem attacks. Nigerian newspaper This Day quoted him as saying:

"I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Christians and Muslims, between Islam and Christianity. It is a conflict between evil people and good people, and the good people are more than the evil doers.  The good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message."

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