Nigeria's unraveling: Gunmen kill at least 44 people at mosque


Nigerian soldiers patrol in the north of Borno state in search of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram members on June 5, 2013.


Quentin Leboucher

Unidentified gunmen killed at least 44 worshippers and injured some two dozen more during Sunday prayers at a mosque in northeast Nigeria, where a state of emergency has been in effect for three months.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack or been linked to the crime in Konduga, Borno state. However, the radical Islamist militant group Boko Haram has terrorized citizens in that area, assaulting mosques with clerics that oppose them, Christian churches and schools. 

"Gunmen believed to be Boko Haram members entered the mosque and opened fire on Muslim worshippers, killing 44," a senior government official in Nigeria told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity. 

"We believe the attack was not unconnected with the cooperation residents are giving to security operatives in identifying and arresting Boko Haram members in their midst."

Nigeria's Daily Post put the death toll higher, saying more than 50 people were killed in Konduga. It's likely the count will change as more information becomes available.

“I was told that many people were killed, I will be going to the hospital to see the victims," local politician Hon. Ali Bukar Dalori told reporters at in Maiduguri. "I think the governor would be going there either today or tomorrow to see for himself. But whatever it is, many people were killed yesterday."

Also Monday, Boko Haram militants in a video claimed responsibility for recent attacks on security forces, according to Agence France-Presse. It's unclear if the mosque attack was mentioned, though it appears the confessions are linked to previous assaults.

In addition, Abubakar Shekau, a leader of the terrorist group with a $7 million bounty on his head, claimed he was in "good health" — a taunt to Nigerian security forces on an offensive against Boko Haram.

Boko Haram — the name roughly means "western education is a sin" — aims to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish an Islamic state in the north.