The Moment (London)

2 January 2012

Nigeria: Troops, Tanks Take Over Maiduguri, Damaturu

Photo: Vanguard
President Goodluck Jonathan visiting Madalla, outside the capital Abuja, where 44 people were killed during a Christmas bomb attack on a church.

Abuja — SEQUEL to President Goodluck Jonathan's declaration of a state of emergency in some local governments in the four states of Niger, Plateau, Yobe and Borno states, heavily armed soldiers and tanks yesterday took over the streets of Maiduguri and Damaturu, the state capitals of Borno and Yobe.

The presidential order, which also closed Nigeria's borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, came after efforts to stop the bombings perpetrated by the Boko Haram Islamic sect had failed.

The latest attack by the dreaded Islamic sect was on St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Madalla area in Suleja, Niger State, which killed some 50 people and injured dozens during a Christmas service.

A witness told a Reuters' reporter in Maiduguri that soldiers and tanks were patrolling the troubled city on Sunday morning.

According to a Maiduguri resident, Buba Guduf: 'We woke up this morning only to see armed soldiers all over the place and some tanks patrolling. We fear what may happen next.'

Another resident, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman, from the Gwange ward of Maiduguri, told Reuters on telephone: 'The soldiers have intensified their patrol in our area and most people prefer to remain indoors for fear of the unknown.'

The blasts at churches have raised fears that Boko Haram, which allegedly have ties with foreign terrorist organisations, forced Christians to stay away from churches during the New Year service in some northern states, sparking angry reactions from the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

Only on Friday, three explosions struck Maiduguri shortly after Muslim prayers.

Although there were no casualties, elsewhere in the city, gunmen shot dead three members of a Muslim cleric's family.

The Moment recalls that gun battles between security forces and Boko Haram killed at least 68 people in two days of fighting in Damaturu, Yobe State, on December 22 and 23.

However, an officer of the Joint Military Taskforce in Maiduguri, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, stated that: 'We are just doing our normal duty.'

On Saturday, President Jonathan visited St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Madalla, scene of the deadliest Christmas attack in the country, and told weeping relatives of the victims: 'We will crush the terrorists.' - With agency report.

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