Salisu Rabiu And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press in Globe and Mail, April 29, 2012
Christians at worship came under deadly attack on Sunday in Kenya and Nigeria, and initial suspicion fell on radical Islamist groups.
The deadliest attack targeted an old section of Bayero University's campus in the city of Kano where churches hold Sunday services, with gunmen killing at least 16 people and wounding at least 22 others, according to the Nigerian Red Cross.
A later attack in the northeast city of Maiduguri saw gunmen open fire at a Church of Christ in Nigeria chapel, killing five people, including a pastor preparing for Communion, witnesses said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the attacks bore similarities to others carried by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram.
The Bayero University attack occurred around an old theatre and lecture halls where local churches hold services, according to Kano state police commissioner Ibrahim Idris, who also said the gunmen rode into the campus on motorcycles, then threw small explosives made out of soda cans around the area.
No group immediately claimed responsibility. However, Mr. Idris said the attackers used small explosives packed inside of aluminum soda cans for the assault, a method previously used by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is waging a growing sectarian battle with Nigeria’s weak central government, using suicide car bombs and assault rifles in attacks across the country’s predominantly Muslim north and around its capital Abuja. Those killed have included Christians, Muslims and government officials. The sect has been blamed for killing more than 450 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.
The city of Maiduguri, the target of second Nigerian attack, is where Boko Haram once had its main mosque. Witnesses who declined to give their names out of fear the sect would target them said the gunmen stormed into the service there and began firing. Most escaped, though as people came out of hiding later they found the pastor dead in a pool of blood in the sanctuary, witnesses said. Four other worshippers died in the attack, they said.
In January, a co-ordinated assault on government buildings and other sites in Kano by Boko Haram killed at least 185 people. In the time since, the sect has been blamed for attacking police stations and carrying out smaller assaults in the city.
On Thursday, the sect carried out a suicide car bombing at the Abuja offices of the influential newspaper ThisDay and a bombing at an office building it shared with other publications in the city of Kaduna. At least seven people were killed in those attacks.
In Kenya, meanwhile, a man set off a grenade during a church service in Nairobi, sowing chaos and killing one worshipper.
Police said at least one person died and 15 were injured. Nairobi has been hit by a series of unclaimed blasts since late 2011, which Kenyan officials have blamed on Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked Shebab Islamists.
In March, grenade explosions at one of the main bus stations in Kenya’s capital killed nine people and wounded 40 others, the deadliest in the series of attacks.
Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants from neighbouring Somalia have vowed to carry out a major attack on Kenya for sending troops in.
Are the people responsible for these atrocities so stupid and vicious not to know or care that their actions are being broadcast instantly around the world, where they will be read/heard/watched and digested by anyone interested, and these attacks will redound on Muslims, whether radical or not, in retaliation.
These thugs, whoever they are, are sustaining the contempt that rational people have for their attitudes, beliefs, actions and their reliance on murder of the innocents as their political weapon of choice, apparently obvious to the ramifications their acts will have on their own faith community.
While all Muslims cannot and must not be "tarred" with the same brush as these radical terrorists, attempts to build bridges around the world, between faith communities, including Islam, Judaism and Christianity, not to mention the plethora of other faiths, will be more difficult so long as these cowardly, heinous and murderous acts continue. And the target groups seem to be quite well defined, so that the 'enemy' of these terrorists is not only political, but religious.
Since 9-11, Muslims in the west have had a more difficult time achieving and receiving respect from other faith communities, and non-religious groups as well. We all hear the sermons of political leaders attempting to restrain and restrict any act of revenge, or any hate crimes, against all religious communities, including both synagogues and mosques, yet we all know that they are continuing.
Killing another person for the faith s/he holds, no matter how it might be connected to some ancillary political agenda, is nevertheless, an act of hate, a crime of hate.
Not only must those responsible be punished, their terrorist groups must be rooted out and destroyed; however, with the attention still being paid to the high profile Al Qaeda threats in place like Yemen, attacks like these in Africa, apparently by Boko Haran, get less media attention in the west.
Will our grandchildren and their children, in decades to come, have to contend with this cancer that continues to metastasize randomly and rapidly under most of the radar of public notice, and will all Christians and Jews become targets for the hate and the compulsion that drive the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity even though there is no formal declaration of war?