Yesterday, AFP reports,
A suicide attacker drove a car bomb into a Nigerian church [in Kaduna], sparking fierce reprisals that saw a Christian mob burn a man alive in a day of violence that killed at least 10 people and wounded 145.
The church attack left at least seven people dead in addition to the bomber, while at least three people were killed in reprisal violence, a rescue official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to provide figures.
Christian youths took to the streets of the northern city of Kaduna with machetes and sticks after the blast, targeting those they believed to be Muslims as anger again boiled over due to repeated church bombings in recent months.
Attackers beat a motorcycle taxi driver near the church, then put his bike on top of him before dousing him with petrol and setting him on fire, an AFP correspondent who saw the violence said. Two other bloodied bodies apparently killed by the mob were seen near the church.
Such attacks are part of a pattern of church bombings in northern and central Nigeria since 2010, many of which have been claimed by the rebel sect Boko Haram. Christian reprisal violence is sometimes part of the pattern as well. The bombings have elevated the political temperature in Nigeria, especially in communities such as Kaduna that have been repeatedly affected. The bombings intersect with inter-communal tensions that date back, in one sense, to the early days of the Fourth Republic that Nigeria inaugurated in 1999 and, in another sense, to incidents of interreligious violence that affected places like Kaduna State in the 1980s, such as the Kafanchan riots of 1987. Some people trace these cycles of religious violence back into the colonial or pre-colonial periods; however one dates it, the point is that today’s conflicts have historical roots and that past grievances fan the flames of present violence. But the present violence also has its own structural features, notably the frequent use of suicide bombings and the role of Boko Haram as a regional force that works to make local conflicts escalate.
The attacks share some common features, especially the use of suicide bombers and/or car bombs. Bombings target both Catholic and Protestant churches. Attacks often occur on Sundays. Attackers often coordinate strikes in multiple locations. And – in what strongly suggests a deliberate goal on Boko Haram’s part of goading central and northern Nigerian communities into interreligious war – bombings often target areas with high levels of interreligious tension, notably Jos and Kaduna. On a final note, however, it is also important to note that Boko Haram may only be behind some of these bombings; others, particularly in Jos, may be the work of local provocateurs.
Here is a partial list of church bombings:
- On December 24, 2010, bombs exploded around Jos (Plateau State) as groups of fighters attacked two churches in Maiduguri (Borno State).
- On July 10, 2011, a bomb exploded at All Christian Church in Suleja (Niger State).
- On December 25, 2011, bombs exploded at churches in, respectively, Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State), Damaturu (Yobe State), and Gadaka (Yobe State).
- On February 26, 2012, Boko Haram carried out a suicide car bombing at the Church of Christ in Jos.
- On March 11, 2012, a bomb struck St. Finbar’s Catholic Church in Jos.
- On April 8, 2012 (Easter), a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb near the All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church in Kaduna.
- On April 29, 2012, three bombs exploded at the old campus church of Bayero University Kano (Kano State), and gunmen shot at worshipers fleeing the building.
- On June 4, 2012, a suicide car bombing occurred at Living Faith Church in Bauchi (Bauchi State).
- On June 10, 2012, a car bomb exploded at Christ Chosen Church of God in Jos.
- On June 17, 2012, suicide bombers from Boko Haram attacked ECWA Goodnews Church and Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria and Kaduna. I wrote about the aftermath of those bombings here.
- On September 23, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Church in Bauchi.
The list of tragedies is growing long.