Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Seven hurt in Nigerian school attack

Reuters and AFP, PORT HARCOURT and JOS, Nigeria, and MANILA

Assailants threw a homemade bomb into a madrasah in southern Nigeria’s Delta state, police said, wounding seven people and escalating tensions between Muslims and Christians after a spate of church bombings across the nation.

Six of the wounded were children younger than nine learning the Koran at the Islamic seminary, or madrasah.

In a separate incident, armed Fulani herdsmen shot dead three members of a family in the ethnically and religiously mixed Plateau state on Wednesday, witnesses and officials said.

The school attack on Tuesday night came two days after Christmas Day bombings of churches and other targets by Islamist militant group Boko Haram killed 32 people in a coordinated strike that seemed aimed at igniting sectarian strife.

“Some men driving in a Camry car threw a low-capacity explosive into a building where an Arabic class was taking place,” police spokesman Charles Muka said.

“Children aged between four and nine were taking a lesson. Six children were injured and one adult,” he said.

He said police suspected a local vigilante group.

Boko Haram, a sect which aims to impose Islamic Shariah law across Nigeria, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks, the second Christmas in a row it has caused carnage.

The worst attack killed at least 27 people in the St Theresa Catholic church in Madalla, a town on the edge of the capital, Abuja, and devastated surrounding buildings and cars as worshipers poured out of the church after Christmas mass.

The attacks risk reviving sectarian violence between the mostly Muslim north and Christian south, which has killed thousands of people in the past decade.

Speaking at a meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella group for all denominations, said Christians had become victims of “Islamic jihad.”

“It is considered as a declaration of war on Christians and Nigeria,” Oritsejafor said. “CAN has found the responses of ... Islamic bodies on this matter to be unacceptable and an abdication of their responsibilities. The Christian community is fast losing confidence in government’s ability to protect our rights.”

Jonathan promised to do more to tackle the threat of Islamists and hinted at a reshuffle in his security services.

“We will restructure ... and make sure we get a team that will meet with the challenge we are facing today,” he said. “I will plead with religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian leaders, to work together.”

There was no suggestion the killings in Plateau had any link to Sunday’s church bombings, as the victims were Christians.

Women wept and wailed in anguish over the bodies of a husband and wife in their 30s and their baby child, all of which were riddled with bullet holes.

“When the Fulani herdsmen came around late in the night, I managed to escape through the window before they killed my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter with guns,” said Mary Pam, the mother of Philip Francis, one of the victims.

In related news, the Philippines said yesterday it would extend a ban on sending workers to Nigeria following the Christmas Day bombings.

The two-year-old ban was to have been lifted by Jan. 1 to allow the movement of thousands of Filipinos seeking to work in Nigeria’s booming energy sector.

However, the wave of bombings has raised fresh security fears, and the ban will now remain in place for at least three more months, the foreign department said in a statement.

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