On Sunday, a church was bombed in the city of Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, and two others were bombed in Zaria (another city in Kaduna State). The rebel group Boko Haram, which has struck Kaduna several times before, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Bombings followed on Monday in the city of Damaturu, Yobe State. View a map of Nigeria here.
The bombing in Kaduna has activated a broader conflict in the city. On Sunday, “as news of the church attack filtered through the city…young Christians took to the streets in violent protest. An AP reporter saw billows of smoke over a mosque in a predominantly Christian part of the city. People had mounted illegal roadblocks and were seen harassing motorists.” Today, “Muslims took to the streets…firing AK-47s, burning tires and destroying at least one church.” Another bomb went off in a market in Kaduna. Authorities have placed both Kaduna and Damaturu under curfew. The violence has disrupted business, academic, and other activity in Kaduna.
Kaduna has seen periodic interreligious violence over the course of the last decade (further back, there have been clashes in Kaduna State for decades, such as an infamous episode in the town of Kafanchan in 1987). Riots occurred in Kaduna, along with other major Northern cities, in 2011 after the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. This week’s violence, in other words, could awaken memories of past conflicts and grievances.
I have seen several estimates of the dead in Kaduna, ranging from around twenty in the blasts to over sixty for all victims.
Three immediate implications of the attacks are:
- Heightened fears of reprisal killings elsewhere. For example, Muslims in Onitsha, Anambra State, in the Southeast, have reportedly sought police protection. These fears are not new – some Christian leaders’ rhetoric has hinted at the possibility of reprisal killings over Boko Haram’s violence before – but the violence in Kaduna represents one of the most serious incidents in which an attack by Boko Haram has immediately sparked interreligious clashes.* Hopefully the calls from various Muslim and Christian organizations for youth to avoid violence will resonate.
- Further loss of faith in the authorities among ordinary people. Much of the reprisal violence in Kaduna originated in protests by Christians and Muslims, protests that partly voiced anger at the government over its failure to protect them. The more people feel they are on their own, the greater their temptation to take up weapons.
- The aftermath of the bombings is an apparent benefit to Boko Haram, if one of their aims is greater chaos. Reuters writes, “The church bombings seem calculated to trigger wider sectarian strife. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said, in al Qaeda-style Internet videos, that the attacks on Christians were revenge for the killing of Muslims.” Boko Haram also benefits if the point above holds, namely if people continue to lose faith in government.
The situation in Kaduna (as well as in Damaturu and elsewhere) continues to evolve. I recommend following the BBC’s Will Ross for updates.
*Jos, a site of recurring Muslim-Christian clashes, is perhaps another place where Boko Haram attacks have fed interreligious violence, though the drivers of violence in that city have much to do with local history, law, and politics. Nevertheless, Jos appears to be one of the movement’s targets: Boko Haram claimed responsibility for bombings in Jos on Sunday June 10.