Nigeria sect leader threatens school bombings

New Zealand Herald (Associated Press), January 27, 2012

The leader of a radical Islamist sect launching increasingly bloody attacks in Nigeria has rejected offers for a negotiated peace, instead promising to kidnap government officials’ family members and bomb schools, according to an internet audio message allegedly posted by the group.

The message by Imam Abubakar Shekau of the sect known as Boko Haram comes amid continuing unrest in north Nigeria following the group’s attack in Kano that killed at least 185 people. A daylight attack on Muslim traders in the north killed 15 people, while gunmen also have kidnapped a German there.

Shekau’s 40-minute message also for the first time discusses Boko Haram’s goal: Complete adoption of Islam across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people split largely between a Christian south and a Muslim north. And Shekau said he remains prepared to order more violence to accomplish that.

“If (Nigerian security forces) are going to places of worship and destroying them, like mosques and Quranic schools, you have primary schools as well, you have secondary schools and universities and we will start bombing them,” Shekau said.

“Touch us and see. That is what we will do.”

The video posted to YouTube on Wednesday shows a still image of Shekau sitting on a beige sofa, a Kalashnikov rifle at his back. Speaking at times in Arabic, English and the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, Shekau said negotiations suggested by President Goodluck Jonathan between the sect and the government will not happen.

“He’s lying. He cannot do it,” Shekau said. “If Jonathan does not repent as a Muslim, even if I die myself, Jonathan’s going to see. He’s looking at me like I’m nobody, but he’ll see.”

In the message, Shekau acknowledged that Boko Haram carried out the Jan. 20 attacks in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city, that killed at least 185 people. Gunmen from the sect armed with explosives and assault rifles, some wearing army and police uniforms, others suicide car bombers, attacked police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of Nigeria’ secret police.

However, Shekau denied killing civilians in the attack, claiming the sect’s gunmen tried to protect the more than 9 million people who live in the important city in Nigeria’s north. Government officials have said many of those killed by the sect were Muslim civilians.

“We’re killing police officers, we’re killing soldiers and other government people who are fighting Allah and Christians who are killing Muslims and talking badly about our Islamic religion,” Shekau said. “I am not against anyone, but if Allah asks me to kill someone, I will kill him and I will enjoy killing him like I am killing a chicken.”

Shekau also said the sect’s attack on Kano came after the arrests, and in some cases torture, of sect members’ wives and children. Nigeria’s federal police often arrest family members to force those they want into turning themselves over to authorities.

The Associated Press could not immediately verify the authenticity of the recording, though it sounded like others attributed to Shekau in the past.

Boko Haram wants to implement strict Shariah law and avenge the deaths of Muslims killed in religious and ethnic violence across Nigeria. The group, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, has now killed at least 262 people in 2012, more than half of the at least 510 people the sect killed in all of 2011, according to an Associated Press count.

The sect also began specifically targeting Christians living in the north at the start of the year, exploiting already existing tensions between the two religions in a nation where religious and ethnic rioting has killed thousands in recent years.

The attack by Boko Haram comes during continued unrest across Nigeria’s north. In Kano, gunmen kidnapped a German citizen Thursday working for Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company Ltd.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told journalists Friday that the embassy and a ministry crisis unit were working hard to resolve the case.

“I can’t yet report any substantial progress,” Peschke said.

Meanwhile, Zamfara state spokesman Ibrahim Muhammad Birnin Magaji said Friday that gunmen killed 15 Muslim traders on their way to market. Birnin Magaji said the gunmen burned the bodies of their victims in a rural village in Katsina state on Thursday, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Kano.

He said authorities suspect an armed robbery attack, but no goods were reported missing.

– AP