The Korea Herald


Christmas attacks in Nigeria by sect kill 39


Published : Dec. 26, 2011 - 10:03

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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Terror attacks across Nigeria by a radical Muslim sect killed at least 39 people, with the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion.

Authorities on Sunday acknowledged they could not bring enough emergency medical personnel to care for the wounded outside St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla near Nigeria's capital. Elsewhere, a bomb exploded amid gunfire in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation's northeast as part of an apparently coordinated assault by the sect known as Boko Haram.

The Christmas Day violence, denounced by world leaders and the Vatican, shows the threat of the widening insurrection posed by Boko Haram against Nigeria's weak central government. Despite a recent paramilitary crackdown against the sect in the oil-rich nation, it appears that Africa's most populous nation remains unable to stop the threat.

The White House condemned what it called a ``senseless'' attack, offered its condolences to the Nigerian people and pledged to assist authorities in bringing those responsible to justice.

In a statement, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said, ``These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others.''

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called in a statement for an end to sectarian violence in the country.

The first explosion on Sunday struck St. Theresa Catholic Church just after 8 a.m. The attack killed 35 people and wounded another 52, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency.

Though billions of dollars of oil money flow into the nation's budget yearly, Luguard's agency could only send text messages to journalists asking for their help in getting more ambulances.

Those wounded filled the cement floors of a nearby government hospital, with television images showing them crying in pools of their own blood. Corpses lined an open-air morgue.

The bombing and the delayed response drew anger from those gathering around the church after the blast. The crowd initially blocked emergency workers from the blast site, only allowing them in after soldiers arrived.

``We're trying to calm the situation,'' Luguard said. ``There are some angry people around trying to cause problems.''

In Jos, a second explosion struck near the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, state government spokesman Pam Ayuba said. Gunmen later opened fire on police guarding the area, killing one officer, he said. Two other locally made explosives were found in a nearby building and disarmed.

By noon Sunday, explosions echoed through the streets of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state where fighting between security forces and the sect already had killed at least 61 people in recent days. The most serious attack on Sunday came when a suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives at the state headquarters of Nigeria's secret police, the State Security Service.

The bomber killed three people in the blast, though the senior military commander apparently targeted survived the attack, the State Security Service said in a statement.

After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria's Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.

Boko Haram has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. The group, whose name means ``Western education is sacrilege'' in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

This Christmas attack comes a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded. The group also claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital Abuja that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.

The sect came to national prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of Maiduguri, a dusty northeastern city on the cusp of the Sahara Desert. Nigeria's military violently put down the attack, crushing the sect's mosque into shards as its leader was arrested and died in police custody. About 700 people died during the violence.

While initially targeting enemies via hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes after the 2009 riot, violence by Boko Haram now has a new sophistication and apparent planning that includes high-profile attacks with greater casualties. That has fueled speculation about the group's ties as it has splintered into at least three different factions, diplomats and security sources say. They say the more extreme wing of the sect maintains contact with terror groups in North Africa and Somalia.

Targeting the group has remained difficult, as sect members are scattered throughout northern Nigeria and nearby Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Analysts say political considerations also likely play a part in the country's thus-far muted response: President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, may be hesitant to use force in the nation's predominantly Muslim north.

In a statement, Jonathan condemned the blasts as a ``unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom.''

``I want to reassure all Nigerians that government will not relent in its determination to bring to justice all the perpetrators of today's acts of violence and all others before now,'' Jonathan said.

However, Jonathan has made the same promises after a series of spiraling attacks by the group. His spokesman, Reuben Abati, defended the president by saying the country planned to spend more on security and had made arrests targeting the group.

``The administration is very determined to address this new threat of terrorism that seems to have slipped into our environment,'' Abati told the AP.

But anger continues to grow over the sect's apparent ability to strike at will _ anger that could be seen at St. Theresa Catholic Church. After the blast, someone picked up a burnt piece of wood to scrawl: ``Revolution now in the country'' on its cement walls.


<한글 기사>

세계 각지서 폭력•사고 잇따른 성탄절

나이지리아 교회 등 연쇄 테러로 40명 숨져
아프간 자살폭탄 19명 사망…이라크서도 테러 잇따라

성탄절인 25일(현지시간) 나이지리아에서 교회 등지에 연쇄 폭탄 테러 공격으로 40명이 숨지는 등 세계 각지에서 폭력과 각종 사건 •사고가 잇따랐다.

AP와 AFP 통신 등의 보도에 따르면 이날 나이지리아 수도 아부자에서 40㎞ 떨어진 마달라의 성 테레사 성당에서 대형 폭발이 일어나 성탄절 미사를 마치고 나오던 신자 등 최소 35명이 사망했다.

또 나이지리아 중부 조스에서는 한 복음주의 교회에 대한 폭탄 테러에 이어 총격전이 벌어져 경찰관 1명이 사망했고 북부 요베주(州)의 다른 교회에서도 폭발물이 터져 많은 부상자가 나왔다.

북동부 다마투루에서는 비밀경찰 건물 앞에서 자살 폭탄 공격으로 경찰관 3명과 테러범 등 모두 4명이 숨졌다.

나이지리아의 이슬람 급진테러단체인 '보코 하람'은 이날 폭탄 공격이 모두 자신들의 소행이라고 밝혔다.

아프가니스탄 북부에서는 장례식장을 겨냥한 자살폭탄 테러가 감행돼 국회의원 한 명을 비롯해 최소 19명이 숨지고 약 40명이 다쳤다.

자폭범은 타크하르주 주도 탈루간에서 열린 한 정부 관리의 장례식에 조문객이 모이자 입고 있던 폭탄 조끼를 터뜨렸다.

이라크 북부 모술에서도 기독교도 한 명이 무장단체로부터 공격을 당해  숨졌으 며 북부 두제일의 군 검문소 부근에서는 차량을 이용한 자살 폭탄공격으로 병사 2명 이 숨지고 군인과 민간인 등 20명이 다쳤다.

이라크의 기독교 신자 수는 알 카에다의 공격으로 급감했는데 바그다드 동부의 한 교회에서는 크리스마스를 맞아 중무장한 군경의 호위 속에 수백명이 미사에 참석 했다.

이날 이라크에 있는 이란 반체제 인사 캠프에는 로켓포 2발이 떨어졌다. 3천명을 수용한 아샤라프 캠프 관계자는 공격을 받았다면서도 사상자에 대해선 밝히지 않 았다.

미국 텍사스주 그레이프바인의 한 주택에서는 성인 여성 4명과 남성 3명 등 모두 7명이 숨진 채 권총 2정과 함께 발견됐다.

현지 경찰은 사망자들이 서로 관련 있으며 이들 가운데 총을 쏜 사람도 있을 것으로 본다고 밝혔다.

이날 수단 수도 하르툼에서는 하르툼대 학생 1만6천명이 정부 타도를 외치며 농 성을 벌였으며 경찰은 최루탄과 공포탄을 쏘며 해산 작전에 나서 70여명을 체포했다.

인도 남부 타밀 나두주에선 풀리카트 호수를 건너던 배가 거센 바람에 못 이겨 좌초하면서 22명이 사망했다. 현지 경찰은 희생자 중에 여자 7명과 어린이 3명이 있 다면서 이들이 호수로 구경을 나왔다가 변을 당했다고 전했다.

크리스마스 이브인 24일에는 쿠바 푼타 마이시 해변에서 100m 떨어진 바다에서 아이티 불법 이민자들이 탄 배가 침몰해 40명이 숨지고 87명이 구조됐다.

또 같은 날 중국 남서부 윈난(雲南)성 광난(廣南)현에서는 정원을 초과해 학생 12명 등 14명을 태운 통학용 미니밴이 절벽에서 추락해 최소 7명이 목숨을 잃었다.

한편 지난 23일 강진이 강타한 뉴질랜드 남섬 크라이스트처치에선 25일에도 여진 이 계속됐다.

이에 따라 모든 교회는 건물이 붕괴할 것을 우려해 야외에서 성탄 행사를 준비했으며 일부는 행사를 취소하기도 했다.