Boko Haram kills 4, including a 7 year-old girl in Yobe and Borno

Gunmen suspected to be members of the radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram have killed at least four people – including a 7-year-old girl – in recent attacks in Yobe state, army and police said on Monday.

Fresh attack on police station in Dikwa, Borno state

In the city of Potiskum, gunmen opened fire on a policeman and his family, killing the policeman’s 7-year-old daughter, the Police Public Relations officer of the Yobe State command, Toyin Gbadegeshin said.

“They fired shots at him while sitting in the midst of his family. He managed to avoid the bullets and scaled over the fence,” Mr Gbadigisin said.

“The gunmen shot dead his seven-year-old-daughter and seriously injured another 12-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old-son who are now in hospital.”

The police spokesman blamed Boko Haram, a group waging an increasingly bloody fight with the Nigerian security forces, for the attack.

Borno attacks

Early on Monday, gunmen killed three people when they attacked a police station, a church and a bank in the border town of Dikwa in Borno state.

The Spokesman for the Joint Security Task Force (JTF), Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said a local politician, a police officer and civilian and three gunmen were killed in the attack which occurred at about 1.30am on Monday morning.

The Army spokesman blamed the attack on members of the Boko Haram sect.

“Three Boko Haram terrorists were killed and many escaped with bullet wounds,” he said.

These attacks follow a Sunday suicide bombing in Kaduna. That attack killed at least 38 people in a massive blast that rattled a city long at the centre of religious, ethnic and political violence in the nation.

While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Boko Haram. Some fear the attack could further inflame tensions around Kaduna, a region on the dividing line between Nigeria’s largely Christian south and Muslim north.

Here are some facts about Boko Haram

THE GROUP

* Boko Haram became active in about 2003 and is concentrated mainly in the northern Nigerian states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna.

* Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria means “Western education is sinful,” is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

* The group considers all who do not follow its strict ideology as infidels, whether they be Christian or Muslim. It demands the adoption of sharia, or Islamic law, across Nigeria.

* Boko Haram followers have prayed in their own mosques in cities including Maiduguri, Kano and Sokoto, and wear long beards and red or black headscarves.

* The group published an ultimatum in January 2012 giving Christians three days to leave northern Nigeria. Since then, attacks in northeastern Nigeria have killed many and hundreds of Christians have fled to the south. President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on Dec. 31 in an effort to contain the violence.

* Human Rights Watch said in January that the sect had killed at least 935 people since 2009.

* Jonathan said the violent sect had supporters within his own government and the insecurity the group had created was worse than during the civil war that broke out in 1967 and killed more than a million people.

* In a recent success, Nigeria arrested the purported spokesman for Boko Haram on Feb. 1, known as Abu Qaqa.

* Abu Qaqa, a shadowy figure and purported spokesman for Boko Haram said on March 20 it had “closed all possible doors of negotiation” with a government of “unbelievers” that it cannot trust, and called on Muslims to join the fight against it.

MAJOR ATTACKS BY BOKO HARAM:

* In its first attack in Jan. 2004, it attacked a town in Yobe State before being forced to withdraw by security forces.

* In July 2009, Boko Haram staged attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi after the arrest of some of its members, and clashed with police and the army in Maiduguri. About 800 people were killed in five days of fighting in the two cities. Later that month, sect leader Mohammed Yusuf was captured by Nigerian security forces and shot dead in police detention hours later.

* In early July 2010, Abubakar Shekau, a former deputy leader of the sect who was thought to have been killed by police in 2009, appeared in a video and claimed leadership.

* On Aug. 26, 2011 a suicide bomber struck the U.N. building in Abuja. At least 23 people were killed and 76 wounded. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Aug. 29, demanding the release of prisoners and an end to a security crackdown aimed at preventing more bombings. It was the first known suicide bombing in Nigeria.

* An attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja’s outskirts during a packed Christmas mass, was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the sect. At least 37 people were killed.

* On Jan. 20, 2012 coordinated bomb and gun attacks on security forces in the northern city of Kano killed at least 186 people in the group’s most deadly attack.

* On Feb. 26 a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a church in Jos, killing two people. Reprisals soon followed and Christian youths killed at least 10 people in Jos days later.

* On Easter Sunday a bomber tried to drive a car packed with explosives into a church compound in northern Kaduna during an Easter Sunday service. However the car was stopped and the driver turned back. The bomb exploded by a large group of motorbike taxi riders, the police and witnesses said. At least 36 people were killed and 13 critically injured.

Explosion in Jos injures seven year old girl

A seven year old girl and several others were reported injured in an explosion at Tudun Wada area in Jos North local government area of Plateau state, North Central Nigeria on Sunday evening when an improvised explosive device exploded.

According to agency reports, the blast occurred at about 8pm near a shop and was believed to have been planted near a motorcycle parked close to the shop.

A 505 Station wagon car was destroyed by the explosion alongside the motorcycle.

The Commissioner of Police, Plateau state command, Dipo Ayeni in a press release confirmed that an unknown person packed a motor cycle laden with an improvised explosive device which later exploded in the area.

The commissioner said no arrest had been made yet and that investigation had gone underway to identify those behind the incident.

He implore members of the public to be security conscious and avail the police with information on the movement of suspicious persons as mechanism to nip in the bud the antics of criminal elements that may want to disrupt the peace in the state.

The Media Officer of the Special Task Force, Capt. Mdahyelya Markus also confirmed the explosion.

He said the girl who sustained minor injuries as a result of the explosion had been taken to the Plateau State Specialist Hospital.

The police authority in the state had last Thursday placed a ban on the operation of commercial motorcycle in and around Jos from 7pm till 6am every day. This step according to the police will help checkmate the increasing rate of insecurity in the state and help resident enjoy a peaceful Easter holiday.

Sunday’s explosion paralysed social and night life in the Plateau capital as agency reports have it that travellers scampered to safety and most drink joints were instantly put under lock by their operators.

38 feared dead in Kaduna car blast

No less than 38 people died on Easter Sunday from suicidal car bomb explosion in the Northern region of Kaduna state in Nigeria.

The bomb which exploded at Sadauna road left charred motorcycles and other debris on the side of the road as people were gathered at a restaurant to eat.

Husband beats wife’s Facebook friend to death

A jealous Taiwanese husband led an assault on a Facebook user who had flirted with his wife online, beating him to death with baseball clubs, police said Monday, according to Agence France-Presse:

Chou You-huang, a 34-year-old resident of south Taiwan’s Pingtung County, told police that he had requested a meeting with the 40-year-old victim, Chuang Shih-chang, after he found out about the online relationship.

When Chuang turned up at the agreed spot outside a restaurant early Saturday morning, Chou and two of his friends attacked him with baseball bats, according to police.

The three men beat him ferociously and then left him there, believing he had not suffered life-threatening injuries, according to police statements.

The China Post reported one of the Facebook exchanges:

Chen, in a Facebook status update, wrote, “I want to get McDonalds! Which nice man will take me there?” Chuang responded: “I am about to arrive at your house!”

In his Internet posts, Chuang also frequently referred to Chen as his “wife.”

The China Post also reported that when questioned by the police, Chou said Chuang “had been drunk and had a horrible attitude and refused to admit his wrongdoings.” He further said he thought Chuang was just in a coma when they left him on the road.

Pope appeals for peace in Nigeria and other troubled countries

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday appealed for peace in the world’s trouble spots during his Easter message, but one of the holiest days for Christians was marred by fresh violence in Nigeria and Syria.

Pope Benedict XVI gives the Urbi and Orbi blessing at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the the Vatican Sunday, April 8, 2012.

Speaking before a crowd of 100,000 in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square, the pope called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria where fighting continues to claim lives.

“Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community,” he said.

The pontiff also voiced hope that the thousands of refugees fleeing the crisis were given help to relieve “their dreadful sufferings.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s comments came as UN peace envoy Kofi Annan said he was shocked at the “unacceptable” escalation of violence in Syria, where 130 people were killed on Saturday in one of the bloodiest days since protests against President Bashar al Assad’s regime erupted in March last year.

At least 11 more people were killed on Sunday as Mr Assad’s regime insisted it would not pull out from cities in Syria unless there were written guarantees from rebels.

Turning to Iraq, the pope encouraged people to “spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development,” while also urging Israel and the Palestinians to “courageously take up a new the peace process.”

He also called for peace and stability to return to Mali after a military coup last month and condemned the “savage terrorist attacks” on Christian churches in Nigeria.

“To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens,” the pope said.

His words came as at least 20 people were killed in northern Nigeria after a car bombing outside a Christian church while an Easter service was being held inside.

Another bomb factory discovered in Kogi state

Another Boko Haram bomb factory was discovered in Kogi state in the Adavi Local Government Area, the Nigeria military confirmed.

General Alphonsus Chukwu told newsmen that the discovery was made as a result of intelligence gathering. The bomb making factory is the third to be uncovered in the central state in the last two weeks.

Chukwu said one of the alleged Boko Haram suspects arrested in previous raids had profered information that led to the discovery of this latest bomb factory, located behind a primary school at Ogaminana, in the central axis of the state.

Items recovered from the hideout include security metal detectors, bullet proof vests, gas cylinder, already made bombs and ammunition.

Members of the task force are yet to make any arrests in connection to the incident. General Chukwu has assured residents, however, that security has been tightened in the statect and forces are on guard against possible acts of terrorism during the Easter weekend.

Security has been beefed up across the nation to ward off possible attacks by the Boko Haram sect.

Earlier this week, the United States and the United Kingdom issued warnings to their citizens, urging them to steer clear of the north as the sect has been known to strike those regions, especially during Christian religious holidays.

Mali rebels declare independence in north

Mali’s desert Tuaregs proclaimed independence for what they call the state of Azawad on Friday after capturing key towns this week in an advance that caught the newly-installed junta off guard.

Malians, who originate from the north, pump their fists in the air during a meeting in Bamako

Nomadic Tuaregs have nurtured the dream of secession since Mali’s own independence from France in 1960 but have little international support for a move which neighbours fear could encourage other separatist movements elsewhere.

This week’s seizure of Mali’s north – a desert zone bigger than France – came with the help of arms and men spilling out of Libya’s conflict. It was backed by Islamists with ties to al Qaeda, triggering fears of the emergence of a new rogue state.

“The Executive Committee of the MNLA calls on the entire international community to immediately recognise, in a spirit of justice and peace, the independent state of Azawad,” Billal Ag Acherif, secretary-general of the Tuareg-led MNLA rebel group MNLA said on its www.mnlamov.net home page.

The statement, which listed decades of Tuareg grievances over their treatment by the distant southern capital Bamako, said the group recognised borders with neighbouring states and pledged to create a democratic state based on the principles of the United Nations charter.

It was datelined in the town of Gao, which along with the ancient trading post of Timbuktu and other northern towns fell to rebels in a matter of 72 hours this week as soldiers in Mali’s army either defected to the rebellion or fled.

The advance capitalised on confusion in Bamako after a March 22 coup by mid-ranking officers whose main goal had ironically been to beef up efforts to quash the rebellion.

Mali’s worried neighbours see the handover of power back to civilians as a precondition for moves to help stabilise the country and have imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions aimed at forcing junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo to step down.

On Thursday a team of mediators said they were hopeful Sanogo would soon announce steps that would allow them to drop the sanctions on Africa’s third largest gold miner, which include the closure of borders and the suspension of its account at the regional central bank.

“We are going to do everything so that these sanctions are not only suspended but completely removed. We are getting there,” Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole told Malian television after talks with Sanogo.

“I can assure you that the captain is aware and taking measures. He will soon make some announcements in that direction,” added Bassole, whose country represents the 15-state ECOWAS regional grouping as a mediator in the crisis.

There was no immediate response from the junta.

Separately, ECOWAS military planners prepared the mandate for a force of up to 3,000 soldiers which could be deployed in Mali with the dual aim of securing the return to constitutional order and halting any further rebel advance.

Ivory Coast General Soumaila Bakayoko said after the talks in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan there was a “clear will” of all ECOWAS states to address the crisis in Mali, but gave no details on troop commitments or a deployment timetable.

Al-Shabab rebels claim responsibility for Somalia blast that killed 10

The Al-Shabab militants in Somalia on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the Somali National Theatre explosion in Mogadishu that has killed at least 10 people, says an international news agency.

According to a government official, two of the country’s top sports officials were among those who were killed in the blast.

Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, said at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded.

Soldiers carry the body of the chairman of Somali football federation, Said Mugabe, after the explosion.

The dead included the president of Somalia’s Olympic committee and the president of its football federation, according to Shafici Mohyadin, the federation’s secretary.

A survivor of the blast said he feared few inside the theatre escaped death or injury. The witness, Zakariye Osman, said he counted at least eight dead bodies. Osman’s clothes were covered in blood as he spoke outside the theatre.

Policeman Abdimalik Hassan said government officials and other dignitaries attended the ceremony. Muse said the wounded included the country’s national planning minister.

The national theatre reopened for the first time in 20 years on March 19 with a concert featuring musicians playing guitars and drums. Wednesday’s ceremony was held to mark the first anniversary of the start of a national TV station.

Al-Shabab militants were largely pushed out of Mogadishu last year by African Union troops, and a period of relative peace has descended on Mogadishu, allowing sports leagues, restaurants and even a little night life to flourish.

Despite those advances, al-Shabab has continued to carry out suicide and roadside bomb attacks, sometimes with devastating effect. Last October militants detonated a truck loaded with fuel drums at a government ministry gate, killing more than 100 people.

Former SSS operative says Boko Haram has links to Al-Qaeda

A former officer of the State Security Service (SSS), Bukar Tarha on Tuesday told a Federal High court sitting in Abuja that Mohammed Suleiman Ashafa charged by the Federal Government for allegedly associating with Al-Qaeda had admitted his involvement in national and international acts of terrorism.

Mr Tarha, who retired from the SSS in 2008, told the court that the Nigerian suspected Islamic fundamentalist had admitted, during investigation that he was working for the resident chief of Al-Qaeda in West Africa, Adnan Ibrahim who is based in Kano and that he took some Nigerians for terrorism training in the Sahel region.

The witness said that Mr Ashafa was under his custody between 2005 and 2006, when he was head of the anti-terrorism department of the SSS, adding that the accused person was handed over to the Nigerian government by the Pakistani government through the National Intelligent Agency (NIA) with a cover letter, stating that he was intercepted at the Pakistani airport in 2004.

According to him, the accused person was also intercepted with CD’s “containing coded messages for the West African chief of the Al-Qaeda” on his way back to Nigeria, with subsequent interrogation of the suspects revealing that it was Mr Ashafa who took them for terrorism training in the Sahel region.

He added that he interrogated the said West African chief of Al-Qaeda in 2006 when he was intercepted by the Libyan authorities and that Mr Ibrahim confirmed to him that he sent Mr Ashafa to Pakistan with another Nigerian terrorist, named, Yusuf Ahamed.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned the case to 9 May, for continuation of hearing to enable the prosecution come with a formal application for the release of the statement of the accused person.

The SSS had earlier arrested the accused person six years ago on allegation that he was the one piloting the affairs of the Al_Qaeda network in Nigeria.

Specifically, he was on December 20, 2006, arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako on a 5 count criminal charge of receiving monies in foreign currencies from Talha and Na’deem (Al-Qaeda Operatives) of the Tabliqh Headquarters, Lahore, Pakistan for the recruiting and training of terrorists whose main objective is to attack residences of Americans living in Nigeria.

Though he was subsequently granted bail by the high court, he was rearrested by the SSS at the National Mosque in Abuja last year.

Amaechi asks US and UK to reconsider travel advisory to Niger Delta

In order to revive the already existing trade relations between the Rivers state government and the United States of America, the Rivers state governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on Monday called for the review of the US travel advisory to the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Governor Amaechi asks US and UK to reconsider travel advisory to Niger Delta

Mr Amaechi was speaking when the deputy commander of civil-military activities of the United States, Africa command (AFRICOM), Sir Anthony Holmes led a delegation on a courtesy visit to him at government house, Port Harcourt.

The governor said the review of the United States’ travel advisory on the Niger Delta would open up huge opportunities of investment and trade for both the rivers state government and the United States of America, at the sub-national level.

Currently, the United States of America and the United Kingdom have travel advisories on the Niger Delta that do not favour the oil-rich region.

Mr Amaechi said that the Niger Delta region have had tremendous improvement in security to warrant the American and UK government to change their position on their travel advisory.

“The American and British travel advisories are currently unfavourable to the Niger Delta, foreign construction firms from Israel, Lebanon, Italy amongst other countries had completed and currently carrying out capital-intensive infrastructural and power projects in Rivers state, without any molestation or security threat to their lives,” he said.

He further said that an American company was bidding to partner with the state government to build a 1000-bed hospital and that during their several visits to the state; the company’s staff did not face any security threat.

The governor therefore urged the United States’ government to reconsider its stance on the nicer Delta so that their citizens can freely come to the region.

Stating the reason for the visit, Mr Holmes said they were in Rivers state as part of the American government efforts to engage with and assist the military in Africa, and to promote and create security for the benefit of all Nigerians, including people in Rivers state and those of other African nations.

He said the significance that Nigeria has on the continent of Africa in terms bilateral relationship and the key role that Rivers state plays in Nigeria in terms of population, resources, and its strategic location has brought them to learn, listen, and to understand the various challenges they face particularly in the area of maritime security

A forth night ago, the United States ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley was in the state to meet with Mr Amaechi.

Soldiers kill six suspected Boko Haram members in Kano and Maiduguri

Clashes between suspected members of the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram and officers of the Joint military Taskforce (JTF) in Both Maiduguri and Kano on Saturday had left at least six people dead and several others injured.

Confirming the incidence, the commander of the 3rd Brigade, Nigeria Army, Kano, Brigadier General Iliyasu Abba told reporters while conducting them around the scene of the clash said that the gunfight between the sect members and soldiers broke out when the security operatives raided their hideout in Saburwar Gandu, Phase one area of Kumbotso Local government area of Kano.

The Brigade commander said the suspected members of the Boko Haram sect had attempted to denote a bomb in a car in order to kill the soldiers that had invaded their hideout following a tip off. “Unfortunately, the IEDs (improvised explosive device) inside the car exploded on them and shattered their bodies,” he said.

In Maiduguri, the operatives of the JTF engaged Boko Haram members in a gunfight that lasted for an hour after the sect members attacked the location where the security operatives were located along the Abaganaram and railway quarters in the town between 5:30 and 7:15pm.
Army spokesperson in Maiduguri, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa confirmed the attack on the army base by the Boko Haram members saying that the soldiers succeeded in repelling it.

He said that four Boko Haram members were killed in the gunfight while an AK 47 rifle was recovered from them as well as 200 rounds of 6.722 mm special ammunition.

The army spokesperson said that they had forced over 200 residents to lay face-down on the road during the gunfight despite the tarmac reaching extreme temperatures in Maiduguri, which borders the Sahara desert.

Lt. Col. Musa said it was to protect them from stray bullets.

Boko Haram says it has “closed all possible doors of negotiation”

Radical Islamic sect Boko Haram said on Tuesday that it has “closed all possible doors of negotiation” with the Nigerian federal government after tentative peace talks collapsed last week.

Reuters reported that a purported spokesman of the sect made the statement to local journalist in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and Boko Haram base, two days after Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmad, a top mediator for the peace talks pulled out.

Ahmad’s retreat from the peace process stalled the dialogue, which was aimed at bringing an end to increasingly frequent violent attacks by the Boko Haram sect. The president of the Supreme Council of Shariah in Nigeria had said in a statement that he was opting out of the talks because he believed the federal government to be insincere.

He said sensitive information discussed during a confidential meeting with top officials of the federal government had made its way to the press, placing the group in an embarrassing situation.

“Almighty God has told us repeatedly that the unbelievers will never respect the promises they made. As such, henceforth, we will never respect any proposal for dialogue,” the sect’s spokesman, operating under the name Abu Qaqa, said in the phone interview.