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Washington, D.C. (October 31, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that another church in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” region has been attacked. At 9:00 am on Sunday, October 28, an SUV full of explosives rammed into the side of St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Kaduna and detonated its deadly payload. At least eight people, including the bomber, have been confirmed dead and over 100 have been reportedly injured. Christian youths were seen outside the church after the attack engaging in reprisal attacks increasing the number of casualties.
Just as Rev. Father Bonni Bazah was about to commence the Holy Communion at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, an SUV rammed through one of the walls of the church. “I heard a loud bang on the wall. Suddenly, I saw the wall caving in towards us. Then I saw an SUV and was about to shout for every [one] to run away when I hear the loudest explosion I have ever heard. Immediately I saw my body covered with blood and bodies were strewn around. After that I lost consciousness,” said Rev. Father Bazah from his hospital bed in Kaduna.
The total number of dead is still unconfirmed, but at least eight, including the suicide bomber, have been confirmed dead; as many as 145 have been reportedly injured.
The suicide bomber was reportedly stopped at the church compound’s gate when he rammed through the gate and into the side of the church. “All of the sudden [the SUV] drove [at a] high speed and rammed into the church wall, forcing its way into the church premises,” said witness Samuel Emmanuel. “Initially I thought the driver had lost control of the vehicle, [but] suddenly there was a huge explosion as the vehicle reached the church building.”
The city of Kaduna is located in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region where the predominantly Christian south boarders the predominantly Muslim north. The city of Kaduna is no stranger to religious violence as it has been victim to a wave of deadly attacks against churches perpetrated by the extremist organization Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group, is seeking to carve out an independent Islamic state in northern Nigeria and is responsible for 2,800 deaths since 2009. In recent months, the group started to specifically target Christian churches in an attempt to drive all non-Muslims out of the north.
Boko Haram has not claimed responsibility for this most recent attack, but there were rumors that Boko Haram might plan an attack during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which ended this past Friday. In the past, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for other attacks on churches, including three suicide bombings in June that killed dozens of people.
ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, said, “Religious violence, especially violence against Christians, has sadly become common in Nigeria’s north and Middle Belt region. Just last month, St. John’s Catholic Church was attacked by a suicide bomber killing three and injuring 48 others. These systematic attacks against churches in Nigeria’s north and Middle Belt seems to be a part of Boko Haram’s attempt to cleanse Nigeria’s north of all non-Muslims. The Nigerian government seems unable to curb the violence against Christian in Nigeria’s north and Middle Belt. In the United States, Nigerian Americans are calling on the US government to label Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization. At this point, three of Boko Haram’s leaders have been labeled terrorists, but the group as a whole has not received that designation. Both the Nigerian government and the international community must take action to end the violence in Nigeria or else risk the collapse of Africa’s most populous nation. Please contact your representative and senator and ask them to take action against Boko Haram and its reign of terror in Nigeria.”