Over 60 die in Nigeria's Easter Holiday Horrors


A seven-year-old girl shot dead by Boko Haram gunmen in a failed attempt to kill her policeman father, was one of the mind-boggling incidents in the spate of Easter weekend attacks that claimed over 40 lives, officials said Monday. In another tragedy, a church collapsed in Benue, killing 22 worshippers Saturday.

The Easter Sunday attack on a home in the northeastern town of Potiskum came hours after a suspected suicide bomber blew up an explosives packed vehicle near a church in the northern cultural and economic hub of Kaduna, killing 36.

Boko Haram Islamists have not claimed the Easter violence, but the church bombing was a bloody reminder of the group’s Christmas Day attacks which killed dozens of people in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.

The group has claimed waves of attacks across Nigeria’s restive north, often targeting the security services, other symbols of authority and Christians.

Late Sunday, suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire into the house of a police sergeant in Potiskum, a police spokesman in Yobe State, Toyin Gbadigisin, told AFP.

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

“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.”

Earlier Sunday, with Easter services ongoing in Kaduna, a bomber tried to enter the ground of a church but was blocked and then detonated his explosives-packed car on a nearby road, a police source said.

Officials previously put the death toll at 20, with nearby motorcycle taxi driver bearing the brunt of the blast, but on Monday announced that 36 people were killed.

“Twenty died on the spot while 16 others died on admission in hospitals,” said Abubakar Zakari Adamu, spokesman for Kaduna state’s emergency management agency.

Another 22 people were killed, including women and children, on Saturday in central Nigeria’s Benue state when their church building caved in on them during an Easter service, a government spokesman said.

In another attack in the northeastern town of Dikwa early Monday, Boko Haram gunmen killed a policeman, a civilian and a local politician in coordinated attacks, the army said in a text message sent to AFP.

The attackers targeted a police station, a bank and a hotel but were quickly repelled by troops, according to Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman of the military’s Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State.

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

Shooting also broke out on Monday in the northeastern town of Maiduguri, considered Boko Haram’s base of operations. Soldiers shot dead two Islamists after gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint, Musa said.

The US strongly condemned the attacks, with State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saying “this violence has no place in a democracy.”

The Nigerian authorities as well as foreign embassies had warned of the possibility of Easter attacks.

Late Sunday, another bomb blast rocked an area of the central Nigerian city of Jos, with an emergency spokesman reporting a number of injuries.

Boko Haram’s deadliest attack yet occurred in the northern city of Kano on January 20, when coordinated bombings and shootings claimed at least 185 lives.

An attempt to hold indirect talks between Boko Haram and the government last month appears to have collapsed, with a mediator quitting over leaks to the media and a spokesman for the Islamists saying they could not trust the government.

There has been intense speculation over whether Boko Haram has links to outside extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.

Diplomats say such links so far appear limited to training for some Boko Haram members in northern Mali with Al-Qaeda elements, without significant evidence of operational ties.

Analysts say deep poverty and frustration in Nigeria’s north has fed the violence, pushing young people toward extremism.

Nigeria’s 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.