Nigeria: Boko Haram suspected in attacks that leave at least 74 dead
An attack on a Catholic church in north-eastern Nigeria on Sunday has left at least 22 Christians dead and many more wounded, though local reports suggest the fatalities may be much higher.
Bishop Stephen Dami Mamza told the BBC that a group of men arrived in trucks towards the end of the usual Sunday Mass service in Waga Chakawa village in Adamawa state.
The attackers locked the doors of the church and fired into the congregation, cutting the throats of those who tried to escape. They detonated bombs and then went on a four hour rampage, burning houses and taking hostages from the village between 10am and 2pm.
Reverend Raymond Danbouye has confirmed that at least 22 people were killed in the attack and were buried in a service on Monday. "There is no protection. We cannot predict where and when they are going to attack. People can't sleep with their eyes closed," Mamza laments.
It is suspected that Boko Haram is behind the attack - a group that was officially labelled a 'Foreign Terrorist Organisation' by the US government in November last year.
The organisation, which has ties to Al-Qaeda and whose name translates as "Western education is sacrilege", is responsible for over two thousand deaths in Nigeria. Its leadership has declared intent to cleanse the country of Christians, eradicate Nigerian democracy and replace it with an Islamic state guided by Sharia law.
Boko Haram is also believed to have carried out a second attack on Sunday in Kawuri village in the neighbouring state of Borno.
At least 52 people were killed in the violence, which also involved gunfire and the detonation of bombs as a busy weekend market was packing up. Three hundred homes were subjected to arson attacks and many civilians who survived are suffering with terrible burns as a result.
President Goodluck Jonathon, who declared a state of emergency in three Muslim-majority north-eastern states in May last year and authorised increased military powers to tackle the ongoing violence from Boko Haram, has spoken out following the recent attacks, saying: "Nigeria is getting its share of the terror.
"God willing, Nigeria will overcome these challenges," he assured.
"It's quite a challenging period for our traditional rulers, religious leaders and opinion leaders because of the security challenges we've [faced], especially in the north-eastern part of this country.
"Let me on behalf of the government express our condolences over the people that have died in this unnecessary Boko Haram insurgence over this period," he concluded.
International Christian Concern, which advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world, has called for increased awareness of and prayer for those suffering in Nigeria.
Regional manager William Stark has stressed the importance of an urgent response to these new attacks, saying the Nigerian government "must take decisive action" to ensure the safety of Christians living in Nigeria.
"If decisive action is not taken, the unbelievable violence being perpetrated against Christians in Nigeria will only continue to accelerate and will likely reach genocidal levels in the near future," he warned.