Nigeria: Boko Haram extreme group back and stronger?

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Authorities in Nigeria are yet to identify suspects following the Christmas season massacre across the country that has claimed over 38 lives in a series of bomb blasts and attacks on church pastors and church goers.

Many in Nigeria have however blamed the radical Muslim sect Boko Haram.

Armed with guns and knives on Sunday December 26, members of an extreme Muslim group attacked a church, dragging the pastor out and shooting him to death. Two young men from the choir were also killed, along with a few passers by. Official figures on the number of people who may have been wounded or killed are yet to be released.

On December 24, the extremists group masterminded four bomb blasts. One of the bombs went off near a large market where people were doing last-minute Christmas shopping. A third hit a mainly Christian area of Jos, while the fourth was near a road that leads to the city’s main mosque.

The Nigerian Police and army are yet to identify suspects in the bombings, but some observers believe the extreme Muslim group Boko Haram that was reportedly crushed in 2009 is back and stronger and is responsible for the Christmas season attacks.

Boko Haram whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language, was reportedly crushed in 2009 and its leader was arrested and died in police custody.

Since the 2009 crackdown of Boko Haram, its members have assassinated police and local leaders and engineered a massive prison break, officials say.

Western governments fear that the sect is catching the attention of al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch.

Since January 2010, religious violence has left more than 500 people dead in Jos and neighboring towns and villages.

According to expert analysis, the violence, though split across religious lines, often has more to do with local politics, economics and rights to grazing lands.

The often volatile state of Plateau, where Jos is the capital, is controlled by Christian politicians who have blocked Muslims from being legally recognized as citizens. That has locked many out of prized government jobs.

Nonetheless, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan expressed sympathy to the victims’ families and said the government will bring the perpetrators to justice.

“I assure Nigerians that government will go to the root of this,” he said of the explosions. “We must unearth what caused it and those behind it must be brought to book,” President Jonathan was quoted as saying.

The violence comes as the President Jonathan, a Christian from the south of Nigeria, is trying to unite the country to support him ahead of next year’s election.

The attacks have received international condemnation.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the violence in Nigeria “especially at a time when millions of Nigerians are celebrating religious holidays.”

The African Union Commission’s Chairman, Jean Ping, expressed shock and sadness at the attacks in a statement released by his office published by AP.

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