- (Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
The militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, has issued a chilling warning to all Christians in northern Nigeria, giving them three days to leave or face further extensive attacks.
The violence in Nigeria by Boko Haram has led to a stiff ultimatum by the group, which has warned that it is ready to confront soldiers sent to engage them under a state of emergency declared by Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan.
“We will confront them squarely to protect our brothers,” said Abul Qaqa, spokesperson of Boko Haram, according to CNN.
He also called for Muslims living in southern Nigeria to come back to the north, citing evidence that they could be attacked.
President Jonathan declared a state of emergency Saturday in areas of Nigeria infected with violent Islamist insurgency. He shut down borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger in the northeast, according to Reuters. The state of emergency was announced in response to multiple violent attacks aimed at Christians in Nigeria, including a Christmas day attack that left 37 people dead and 57 wounded.
Boko Haram, which is reported to have ties with al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the killings. In response President Jonathan has vowed to “crush” the group, according to MSNBC. He said they began as a harmless group, but has now grown cancerous.
Shehu Sani, a human rights activist, has told CNN that Boko Haram’s threats are credible, but has warned that northern Christians have nowhere else to go after being born and raised in the area. Sani said that killings will continue and Boko Haram will simply move its violence to areas not yet affected to bypass the state of emergency.
Sani feels that the state of emergency and enhanced presence of security forces will not help decrease the violence, and he has accused troops of being involved in human rights abuses and doing little to reduce the violence.
Nigeria, which has nearly an equal balance of Christians and Muslims, is split between a predominantly southern Christian population and a northern Islamic population. Boko Haram and Islamic groups in the north claim they have been starved of resources and marginalized by the government of Christian president, Goodluck Jonothan, according to CNN.
Boko Haram, which means “Western civilization is forbidden,” wants an imposition of Islamic Shariah law across Nigeria.
David Cook, of Rice University, who has studied the rise of Boko Haram, has claimed that radical Muslim violence could take hold of the country and eventually spark a civil war in Nigeria, a top oil producer and Africa’s most populated nation.