Nigeria: 20 killed in mosque attack

An estimated 20 people are thought to have died after gunmen opened fire at a mosque in a village in north-eastern Nigeria on 5 April.

Islamist extremist group Boko Haram is suspected of being responsible for the attack, which took place as locals gathered at the mosque for dawn prayers in Buni Gari village in Yobe State.

Boko Haram – which translates as 'Western education is sacrilege' - was officially labelled a 'Foreign Terrorist Organisation' by the US government last year. It has ties to Al-Qaeda, and is responsible for over two thousand deaths in Nigeria since 2009.

Its leadership has declared its intent to cleanse the country of Christians, eradicate Nigerian democracy and replace it with an Islamic state guided by Sharia law. Besides attacking Christians, members of the extremist faction have begun targeting some Muslim communities which they believe to have betrayed Islam.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who has declared a state of emergency in three Muslim-majority north-eastern states and authorised increased military powers to tackle Boko Haram, spoke out following a spate of attacks earlier this year. He said: "Nigeria is getting its share of the terror. God willing, Nigeria will overcome these challenges."

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, has condemned the recent wave of violence, declaring: "There must be no ambiguity about the fact that despite its religious justifications, Boko Haram's terrorist campaign is ultimately aimed at seizing political power, and they have no qualms about killing innocent civilians regardless of their religious affiliation.

"The perpetrators of these atrocities must be apprehended so that Nigerians of all creeds can once again exercise their right to gather together in worship in safety, and feel secure in their local areas," he said.

Thomas concluded by underlining the importance of urgent political action in putting an end to the violence: "We ... urge the Government of Cameroon to continue consolidating security efforts in its northern region in coordination with the Nigerian authorities in order to ensure terrorist elements are deprived of any potential safe havens."