Our reporters, with agency reports
It was a bloody Christmas Day celebration, Sunday, when the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram carried out bomb attacks in some northern Nigerian cities, killing atleast 40 people with several others injured.
St. Theresa’s Church, Madalla, in Suleja, Niger State was the worst hit when a suspected car bomb blast, Christmas morning, killed at least 35 people, including men, women and children.
A policeman was confirmed killed in a second Christmas Day explosion near the Mountain of Fire church in Jos, Plateau State.
Two other blasts hit Damaturu, yesterday, including a suicide bombing, when a yet to be identified suicide bomber, attacked the Yobe State Command Headquarters of the Department of State Security Services, SSS, Damaturu, resulting in the instant death of three personnel.
Also, another explosion targeted a church at Gadaka in Yobe state on Christmas Eve, but no one was reported killed.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan, in his reaction condemned the blasts”saying the bombing of innocent citizens on a day millions of people all over the World are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ is a dastardly act that must attract the rebuke of all peace-loving Nigerians.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan said,”These acts of violence against innocent citizens are an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom,” adding that “Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them.”
However, the Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the Suleja explosion that killed 35 people, just as the US and other world leaders condemned the attack.
National Security Adviser, Owoye Azazi, said in a statement that Boko Haram members threw improvised explosive devices from a moving vehicle.
Presidency to organise security summit
The Presidency has said it is set to organise a National Security Summit, NSS, in the new year on possible best ways to secure Nigeria in the present and future.
Top security officials, Sunday, rose from a crucial session with a declaration that Boko Haram decision to destroy Nigeria must be urgently nip in the bud, saying that the menace underscores the budgetary proposal for 2012 fiscal year.
The security chiefs also want the federal government to declare the new year a security year, as part of deliberate efforts to tackle the rising wave of insecurity in Nigeria, essentially the Boko Haram terror group and many other ethnic militia formation across the country.
35 killed at Madalla, Suleja
Security Sources told Vanguard that the bombs which went off at about 8.30am, followed immediately the 6am mass was concluded and churchgoers trooped to the car park to board their vehicles to go home when a suicide bomber drove into the premises in a BMW saloon car and detonated the bombs.
The effect of the massive blast was said to have caused a large fire which consumed 8 vehicles with the occupants including men,women and children, burning them beyond recognition while about 8 other vehicles, without occupants , were damaged beyond recognition.
The source further told Vanguard that it would be difficult to ascertain the total number of the dead as there were other charred remains of women, children and other persons either trapped in vehicles or littering the car park of the church.
Shortly after the blast however, Vanguard was told that security agencies including the Police, Army headquarters Garrison, Guards Brigade, Civil Defence Corps and Search and Rescue bodies from NEMA, Road safety Corps and medical teams raced to the scene to perform rescue operations.
Speaking to newsmen at the scene of the incident, the Parish Priest, Reverend Raphel Achi narrated how the attack happened.
He said, “I left here as early as 6 clock to go for a mass at one of our out stations. At the end of the mass, I was informed that an ugly incident happened and probably, they were suspecting it to be in my church. I rushed down.
Meanwhile, as I was going, I left my assistant, Father Christopher Jatau to officiate and I came in only to discover that whole place had become a carnival of people coming to see the ugly issue that happened.
“This ugly situation happened when the mass is about to close and not when the people are coming. The people who left earlier probably I suspect were those who were travelling. We used to have early Mass like this on a day like this so that people can come early and finish with the mass before continuing with their journey only for them to meet the end of their lives at the entrance.
“On coming in, I did not meet my assistant only for me to be told he took some people to the Hospital. I waited for him. And on his arrival, he told me how the thing happened and how he felt.
“This issue is becoming so alarming. We churches are now the targets. Coming to meet people who had come to pray and asked for God’s blessings for their country. I stand to say no to such things. You can see so many families gone, the whole household gone. The two vehicles at the front there, the first one there, the people were five, the next one, the people were four, and this last one, they were four. I know the catholics members were the people affected and the Kabukabu men who came around to look for their daily bread and probably some passers-by.
“I still call on the Federal Republic of Nigeria on this issue of security in this country. We need to do something and not to allow it to continue. All those who are engaging themselves in this havoc, they should stop it. They should repent for the good of our country Nigeria. We want to be one and we still want to be one.”
The impact of yesterday’s blast, which was reminiscent of Christmas Day bomb blasts in Jos last year, also caused the cutting of power supply and damage to twelve residential apartments close to the Church.
Suicide bomber kills 3 in SSS office attack
A yet to be identified suicide bomber, Sunday, attacked the Yobe State Command Headquarters of the Department of State Security Services, SSS, Damaturu, resulting in an instant death of three personnel.
The incident according to a press release issued by the Deputy Director Public Relations of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, “occurred as the convoy of the Commanding Officer of the 241 Recce Battalion, Nguru, Yobe State, Dahiru Abdulsalam (Col.) was driving into the Headquarters complex for a security meeting.”
The statement further read, “The suicide bomber attempted to force his way into the convoy but was stopped by vigilant guards. However, upon collusion with the gate, the impact resulted in an explosion.
“Consequently, the following casualties were recorded: three (3) Service personnel died; the suicide bomber was killed; one (1) person was injured; and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) stationed at the gate was destroyed.
“These attacks, no doubt are reactions to the on-going operations by the security agencies to contain the excesses of terrorists who continue to wreak havoc on the public.
“The attacks will in no way deter Security agencies from securing the lives and property of Nigerians and riding the society of criminals.
“Accordingly, members of the public are hereby implored to report suspicious movements within their localities to the nearest law enforcement agency in the overall effort to rid our Nation of these undesirable elements.”
Gadaka , Yobe attack
In Gadaka, also in the northeast, “Christian worshippers were attacked at the church in Gadaka while observing a Christmas vigil,” a resident said.
“The worshippers fled but the attackers burnt their cars they abandoned. Nobody was hurt and the church was not touched.”
US condemns ‘senseless’ bombings
The White House on Sunday condemned the deadly Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria as “senseless violence” as it offered condolences to the Nigerian people over attacks blamed on an Islamist sect.
“We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what initially appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice,” the White House said in a statement.
The statement was issued as President Barack Obama vacationed in his native Hawaii, where he was getting regular daily briefings by his national security staff.
“We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day,” the statement issued by White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Other world leaders
“Even on Christmas Day, the world is not spared from cowardice and the fear of terrorism,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
“Tolerance … and the willingness to resolve conflicts through peaceful means are not just the message of the Christian holiday of Christmas and other religions of the world. They can also be the key to peace, freedom and prosperity of entire regions.”
“These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also condemned the attacks, saying: “France addresses its condolences to the authorities and people of Nigeria and expresses its solidarity in their fight against terrorism and for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law throughout Nigeria.”
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said the attacks struck at “the universal principles of civility.”
“I express my strongest condemnation of these vile attacks,” he said.
“Italy, which has always been at the forefront in the defence of freedom of religion and the promotion of dialogue and tolerance between religions, will continue to do the utmost … so that in Nigeria like elsewhere the principles of co-existence between religions and respect for freedom of religion are actively respected and defended.”
The Vatican called the attack on the church an act of “blind hatred” that sought “to arouse and feed even more hatred and confusion.”
It would berecalled that on Friday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General OnyeaborAzubuike Ihejirika, in reaction to the Boko Haram bombings in Maiduguri and Damaturu, said, “We have information that the Boko Haram sect plans to cause mayhem this festive period.We have put in place measures to nip this plan in the bud by deploying our Quick Response Troops to man specific points as well as carry out patrols in search of them”.
In this regard, he noted that the JTF launched a successful operation on the sect’s operational stronghold in Damaturu, Yobe state, killing 59 of their members inthree tranches of 42, 12 and five, and destroying their armoury and rendering their operations in Damaturu comatose.
“There was a major encounter with the Boko Haram in Damaturu on Friday. In the encounter, we over ran their major stronghold and their ammunition site. As is usual in any such encounter, we lost 3 of our soldiers, 7 were wounded but we killed over 50 of their members. They came with sophisticated and heavy weaponry includingGPMG’s, SMG’s and bombs but our trained soldiers subdued them”, he said.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that obviously, security agencies did not reckon that the Boko Haram sect would target churches in remote areas like Madalla in Niger state to wreak havoc, hence their concentration on protecting federal and important assets and christian worship centers in the federal capital territory, Abuja.