By Jim Kouri
slamic terrorists detonated bombs throughout Nigeria on Christmas Day targeting Christian churches that were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. At least 40 people were killed and dozens more were injured.
The al-Qaeda affiliated Boko Haram , who wish to impose Sharia law in the country, claimed responsibility for three church bombs. Security forces also blamed the sect for two other blasts in the north.
St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madala, a town about 30 miles from the capital city of Abuja, was filled with worshippers when the bomb exploded. Blasts are also reported at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in the religiously divided town of Jos, and at a church in northern Yobe state at the town of Gadaka. Residents said many were wounded in Gadaka, but there were no immediate further details, according to a U.S. intelligence source.
Boko Haram (translated: “Western or non-Islamic education is a sin”) is a controversial Islamist group that seeks the imposition of Shariah law in the northern states of Nigeria. The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.”
In the past, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, released a bipartisan report entitled “Boko Haram – Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” detailing the rapid evolution of the Nigerian-based terrorist organization.
In August 2011, Boko Haram attacked the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED), killing 23 people and wounding more than 80 others.
In a video recorded before the attack, the suicide bomber described the U.N. as a forum for “all global evil” and stated that the attack was designed to “send a message to the U.S. President and ‘other infidels.’”
As reported by the Law Enforcement Examiner in July, Boko Haram was formed by Muslim cleric in 2002 in Nigeria. While claiming to be a peace loving religious group, in the Summer of 2009 the radical Islamist organization launched a rebellion hoping they would be able to establish Sharia law and an Islamic state in the northern part of Nigeria.
In the aftermath of Boko Haram’s battle with the military in July 2009, over 800 were left dead, and hundreds more were wounded. After the battle, Boko Haram’s founder and leader Mohammed Yusuf and several ranking members including Yusuf’s father were killed while in police custody.
Since January 2010, surviving terrorist group members have bombed targets and conducted guerilla warfare — or hit-and-run — operations. In one attack a police stationhouse was bombed in June 2011. The group claimed responsibility for the bombing attack on the police force headquarters in Abuja that occurred the previous day. Officials believed that the attack was the first suicide bombing in Nigeria’s history and that it specifically targeted Police Inspector-General Hafiz Ringim, according to the Law Enforcement Examiner source.
“It is critical that the U.S. Intelligence Community thoroughly and carefully examine the extent of the threat from Boko Haram to the U.S. Homeland. Our report found that the August attack on the U.N. represented a major escalation in the targeting and tactics of Boko Haram, an evolution that mirrors the rise of other al Qaeda affiliate groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” said Rep. Meehan.
“While some believe Boko Haram will focus only on targets within Nigeria and does not have the intent or capability to strike the U.S. Homeland, the same was assessed about AQAP and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), before their near fatal attacks over Detroit on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 and in Times Square in May 2010,” Meehan stated.
On Christmas Eve 2010, a series of bomb blasts in Nigeria killed 32 people, and other people died in attacks on two churches in the northeast.
In a press statement released in the U.S. on Christmas Day, the Obama White House condemned “this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day.”