Apparently worried by the established pattern and the frequency of attacks in recent times, the Nigerian Government, on Thursday provided possible reason why terrorists are now attacking churches and Christians in their murderous campaign.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at a media briefing in Abuja, explained that the change of tactics by the terrorist and seeming focus of attacks on Christians and churches was caused by the consistent and ceaseless bombardment by the Nigerian military in recent times.
Mohammed said that contrary to the impression being given by the terrorists that they were Muslims, they were nothing more than blood-thirsty, rapacious killers who subscribe to no religion.
Mohammed said the terrorists were deliberately deploying the antics of attacking Christians and churches in order to sow the seed of confusion between the two great religions even though they have not stopped attacking Muslims.
The minister also pointed out that the attacks on their new target was due to the fact that having been dealt a deadly blow by the military and the terrorists having run out of options in their battle against Nigeria, were trying desperately to stay relevant and be in the news by embarking on cowardly and senseless strategy targeting Christians as part of their increasing resort to the use of Guerilla tactics.
But Mohammed quickly warned both Muslim and Christian leaders in the land not to fall for the desperate move by the insurgents by allowing them to divide Nigerians and weaken their resolve to deal the malevolent elements a mortal blow.
He described the use of Guerilla tactics by the terrorists against Nigerians as a sign of weakness on their part, adding that they would get weaker and weaker by the day as a result of the relentless and tireless onslaught by the gallant Nigerian troops.
The Minister said: "As you would have noticed, Boko Haram and the ISWAP have recently changed their strategy, in the wake of their ceaseless pounding by the military. At its peak, Boko Haram in particular was a fighting force,conquering and keeping territory, installing and deposing Emirs and also collecting taxes. It had the capability to take the battle to many states, mostly in the north, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, where it bombed the police headquarters, the UN Complex, shopping complex and motor parks.
"Upon assumption of office on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Command and Control centre to relocate from Abuja to Maiduguri and rallied the support of our neighours as well as the international community. This yielded immediate results as Boko Haram was not only decimated, but all the territory under its control was recovered. The insurgents also lost the capability to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they were used to, and then resorted to attacking soft targets, including churches and mosques as well as schools.
"Recall that Boko Haram insurgents didn't use to discriminate between Christians and Muslims when they carried out their attacks in the past. Churches and mosques, Christians and Muslims were attacked without discrimination. When they targeted motor parks, the religion, gender, ethnicity or political leaning of the victims didn't matter, as long as they inflicted the maximum damage to lives and property.
"But in the wake of a renewed onslaught by our tireless military against Boko Haram and their ISWAP allies in recent times, the insurgents have apparently changed their strategy: They have started targeting Christians and Christian villages for a specific reason, which is to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos. Apparently, they have realized how emotive and divisive religion can be, when exploited by unscrupulous persons.
" Lest I am misunderstood, let me repeat: the insurgents, who delude themselves as Muslims whereas they are nothing more than blood-thirsty, rapacious killers who subscribe to no religion, have recently started targeting Christians with a view to sowing the seed of confusion between the two great religions. This did not in any way signify that they have stopped attacking Muslims. But they seem to now have a deliberate policy of attacking Christians.
"The attack on a Christian village, Kwarangulum, near Chibok; the killing of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika local government in Adamawa, Lawan Andimi; the killing of Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a student who was also a member of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN); and the killing of 11 Christians on Christmas eve, etc, fit into this new strategy
"Some have misinterpreted this to insinuate a systematic campaign to persecute Christians in Nigeria. This is absurd, and very unfair to the men and women who are daily battling the insurgents. The truth is that, having run out of options in their battle against Nigeria, the insurgents are desperate to stay relevant, to stay in the news, hence their cowardly and senseless strategy targeting Christians, as part of their increasing resort to the use of Guerilla tactics.
"We want to therefore appeal to our religious leaders, both Christians and Muslims, not to fall for this desperate move by the insurgents, not to allow them to divide us as a people and weaken our resolve to deal the insurgents the mortal blow. In addition, we must also give our unalloyed support to the military, which has also upped the ante against the insurgents. The resort to the increasing use of Guerilla tactics by the insurgents is a sign of weakness on their part. Contrary to the belief in certain quarters, these insurgents are getting weaker by the day, thanks to the gallantry of our men and women in uniform.
"The renewed vigour by the military in their war against the insurgents is paying off handsomely, judging by the victories they have recorded in recent times. These include: the killing of top ISWAP leaders at two separate meeting venues at Marte Local Government in Borno State a few days ago, the successful attack against the leadership of Boko Haram in Alafa Yagayaga in Borno earlier this month and the killing of Boko Haram Chief Judge in Lake Chad, which has resulted in in-fighting in the leadership cadre of Boko Haram.
" We therefore we want to once again appeal to our leaders, especially religious leaders, not to fall for the antics of Boko Haram and ISWAP, who are trying to divide us along religious lines by targeting Christians for attacks.
"This is the last desperate move by a decimated and disillusioned band of killers and psychopaths to stay relevant amid constant decimation by our gallant troops. We have what it takes to come together and foil this divisive and satanic strategy. We appeal to Nigerians to support the military as it moves to decapitate the insurgents. Second-guessing the military at this time is like playing into the hands of Boko Haram," Mohammed pleaded.