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Gunmen open fire on Christian mourners, killing 17

KANO (AFP) – Gunmen fired on Christian mourners on Friday, killing 17 in the latest attack to hit the region amid mounting fears of sectarian clashes, residents and a relief source said.

“There was an attack last night at Good Will Hotel in which five people were killed, all of them Igbos,” resident Zubairu Abdulaziz said of the incident in the northeastern town of Mubi, speaking of the Christian Igbo ethnic group.

“Today, some friends and relations of one of those killed in the attack gathered in his house to mourn his death. Unfortunately some yet to be identified gunmen arrived at the house and shot dead 17 mourners.”

Other residents gave a similar account. A rescue official speaking on condition of anonymity said local residents told him three people were killed on Thursday night and either 16 or 17 on Friday.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. A police spokeswoman declined to comment, saying she did not yet have information.

It was the latest attack in recent weeks targeting Christians in Nigeria. Islamist group Boko Haram has been blamed for previous such strikes.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31 in parts of four states hard hit by violence blamed on Boko Haram, but there has been no halt to the violence.

Mubi, located in Adamawa state near the Cameroon border, is not part of the areas under the state of emergency decree.

Late Thursday, gunmen opened fire on worshippers at a church on the outskirts of the city of Gombe, killing six people, including the pastor’s wife. Three bomb blasts hit the cities of Maiduguri and Damaturu on Wednesday night.

The attacks came amid intensifying concerns over the potential for renewed sectarian clashes in Nigeria, whose 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

While Boko Haram has been blamed for increasingly deadly attacks for months, including an August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that killed 25, the violence has taken on a different dimension with recent church attacks.

A wave of Christmas bombings that killed 49 people, most of them outside of a Catholic church as services were ending, led to intense fear and outrage in Africa’s largest oil producer.

There have been fears of reprisals from Christians, and Christian leaders have warned they will defend themselves if attacks against them continue.

Boko Haram is a shadowy group believed to have a number of factions with differing aims, including those with political links and a hard-core Islamist faction.

It launched an uprising in 2009 put down by a brutal military assault which left some 800 people dead.

Since the group re-emerged in 2010, it has been blamed for increasingly sophisticated and deadly attacks, including suicide bombings, and its structure and aims have become far less clear.

Speculation has ranged from whether the group is seeking to foment religious conflict to if elements of it have been co-opted for political aims.


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