An extremist Islamic group is being held responsible for a series of recent attacks in Nigeria, which have left 16 dead and destroyed the Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick in the northern capital city of Maiduguri.
“St. Patrick’s Cathedral was seriously damaged, windows and doors destroyed, the whole building was shaken to its foundations by the violence of the explosion,” said Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri.
On June 7, an armed group suspected to be members of Boko Haram set off a bomb at the cathedral as well as two police stations. The damage is the latest in a series of coordinated attacks by Boko Haram, which claims to seek a more widespread application of sharia (Islamic law) in Africa's most populated nation.
The extremist group – with a name that translates to “Western education is a sin” in the Haussa language – has carried out almost daily attacks in and around Maiduguri in recent months. Its targets have been politicians, law enforcement, and religious and traditional rulers opposed to its ideology.
“The situation in Maiduguri is very tense,” Bishop Doeme told Fides news on June 8, recalling that only “two weeks ago, another Catholic church was the target of an attack with explosives, as well as a secondary school.”
On June 6, an Islamic religious leader, who opposed the cult, was killed in an attack in Biu, a town south of Maiduguri. The group also claimed responsibility for bombs that killed at least 16 people hours after President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in on May 29.
The recent violence adds to the civil strife which broke out across the predominantly Muslim north when the results from the April 16 presidential election showed President Jonathan, a Christian from the south, had won.
Many in the north believe someone from their region should be in power because the elected Muslim president died last year before he could finish his term.
Riots have killed at least 500 people in Nigeria after the April elections, with the two northern states of Kaduna and Bauchi states being the hardest hit by violence. An estimated 40,000 people have fled those areas in recent months.