Business, Finance & Economics

Nigeria President: Boko Haram Islamists have gov't support

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R) listens to relatives of Christmas bomb blast's victims as he visits the damaged St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla near the capital Abuja on December 31, 2011. Jonathan said today the 'cancerous' Boko Haram Islamist sect blamed for hundreds of deaths wanted to destroy the country but would be foiled. Nigeria on December 26 probed a wave of Christmas Day bomb attacks that killed at least 40 and was blamed on Islamists, including one blast that ripped through a crowd of worshippers exiting mass.
Credit: Wole Emmanuel

NAIROBI, Kenya — Is the Boko Haram fight worse than Biafra?

So thinks Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan who spoke at a church service on Sunday.

"The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought," the Agence France Presse news agency quoted him as saying in reference to the 1967-70 Biafra conflict that killed more than a million people, many through deliberate starvation.

Biafra was a horrific war and one of the first in the modern era to receive widespread media coverage.

The likes of photographer Don McCullin and journalist-turned-author Frederick Forsyth made their names in Biafra bringing home gut-wrenching stories and images.

The conflict left a scar that still festers in Nigeria so to reference it is no small rhetorical flourish.

"During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from," Jonathan continued, "but the challenge we have today is more complicated." He said that sympathizers of the Islamist militants could be found among the government, judiciary and security services.

Boko Haram — a Taliban style group whose name means "Western education is forbidden" and which is suspected of links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — has killed at least 80 people in separate attacks since Christmas and killed more than 500 last year.

Clearly the scale does not compare with Biafra but by raising the spectre of civil war, Jonathan may in fact be pouring fuel on a sectarian fire that is already smouldering.

Read more on GlobalPost: 18 killed in suspected Boko Haram attack

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