Maiduguri, Nigeria, Sep 3, 2014 / 01:06 am
Amid increasing attacks at the hands of the Islamic State in the Middle East, the similarly radical Islamist group Boko Haram has captured at least two additional cities in different states in Nigeria in recent days.
The group has killed thousands since 2009, including at least 2,000 in 2014 alone.
Madagali: Christians flee, parish looted then set ablaze
In late August, Boko Haram captured the town of Madagali in Nigeria's Adamawa state, forcing Fr. Aiden Ibrahim of St. Denis to flee from his parish, Vatican Radio reported Aug. 30.
Fr. Gideon Obasogie, Director of Social Communications in the Diocese of Maiduguri, which includes Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states, said the parish was looted, vandalized, and then set on fire.
While many Christians fled the area few months prior to the attack, many people who remained in the area were killed by the insurgents, Fr. Obasogie told Vatican Radio. Parishes throughout the diocese have been continually terrorized by Boko Haram, forcing Christians and priests to flee and churches to close.
Fr. Obasogie has appealed for prayers, and committed the Maiduguri diocese to the maternal care of our Lady Help of Christians.
Gwoza to Bama: Moving closer to Borno's capital
Just days prior to the capture of Madagali, the militant group captured nearby Gwoza in the state of Borno and declared a caliphate, or an Islamic state, in the area.
However, recent reports from the BBC and the Nigerian online news source the Daily Post indicate that Boko Haram has abandoned Gwoza in favor of Bama, a city with a population of around 270,000 and roughly 50 miles to the north.
After intense battles with the Nigerian military, residents of Bama told the BBC that the town had been captured by the insurgents Sept. 1.
While the military was able to keep the attackers at bay for a time, the terrorists returned with reinforcements and began capturing the city, starting with the military barracks.
Although yet to be officially confirmed by the military, the town would be a key capture as the largest city yet to be under Boko Haram control and one step closer to Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno.
Thousands fled Bama on foot en route to Maiduguri on Monday as the insurgents took over.
Five years in: gaining control
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful", began using military force in 2009 to impose sharia law on Nigeria. It has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria's predominately Muslim north.
Boko Haram gained international attention in April when it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of nearly 300 teenaged school girls.
Many countries including China, France, the UK and US have sent military assistance to help find the girls, but the majority of them remain missing.
The U.N. estimates that Boko Haram attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, and some 57,000 refugees.