Nigeria has seen massive violence; last week hundreds were killed, many of them Christians.
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in volatile Nigeria were mourning their dead Good Friday, April 18, ahead of Easter, after Islamic militants killed more than 200 people and kidnapped hundreds others in the region, including two priests and a nun.
Rights investigators and churches said the group Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamic state in Africa's largest oil-producing nation, carried out massacres in less than seven days.
"Boko Haram has kidnapped two priests and a nun from a rural Catholic school on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border, murdered eight teachers in an attack on a teaching college in [the town of] Dikwa, attacked northern Nigerian villages in Borno State, allegedly killing 130 innocents," said International Christian Concern (ICC), a major advocacy group investigating the situation.
Boko Haram, or 'Western education is a sin' also "massacred 71 and destroyed more than 30 vehicles in the nation's capital city of Abuja," as well as conducting "a mass-kidnapping of 243 girls from a government secondary school in Maiduguri," ICC investigators said.
The latest troubles began April 4 when fighters of Boko Haram reportedly raided a small Catholic parish in the town of Tchéré, in neighboring, Cameroon, taking hostage and then kidnapping three members of the clergy.
Among those kidnapped are Canadian nun Gilberte Bussiere, 75, and Italian priests Giampaolo Marta, 47, and Gianantonio Allegri, 57.
"After the raid and ransacking of several Catholic buildings, the band made its way with the three clergy toward the Nigerian border, confirming suspicions the attack was sponsored by Boko Haram," ICC told BosNewsLife in a statement.
An initial helicopter search, by Cameroonian security forces, failed to locate the three clergy and their exact whereabouts remained unknown Friday, April 18, investigators said.
Soon after, on April 10, Boko Haram militants raided a teaching compound in Dikwa, murdering the eight teachers present at the time of the attack and burning the compound's library to the ground, Christians said.
he first of a series of attacks across Borno State, Boko Haram proceeded to raid two villages near the Nigerian-Camroonian border, killing an additional 130 civilians, said Borno State Senator Ahmed Zannah.
Later on April 14, a series of bombs exploded at a busy bus terminal in Nigeria's capital Abuja, setting 16 luxury- and 14 mini-buses ablaze, killing 71 and wounding more than 130, Christian rights activists and officials said.
Christian rights activists said the attack specifically targeted Christian worshippers traveling with friends and family during the weak leading up to Easter, to commemorate what they believe was the crucifixion and resurrection from
death of Jesus Christ.
"The historic attack marked the first day of the Holy Passion week of the Easter holiday as the first major Boko Haram attack to occur within the nation's capital," ICC noted.
Elsewhere on April 14, over 100 armed Boko Haram insurgents abducted 243 students from an all-girls secondary school sponsored by the Nigerian government after shooting their way past the compound's security staff, according to authorities and Christians.
The abduction lasted some six hours as the kidnappers hand-selected from the more than 250 students, loading abductees into the backs of military-trucks to be driven into the woods toward the Nigerian-Cameroonian border.
So far more than 80 of those abducted have been recovered by a search team of mainly local vigilantes and soldiers, but activists said they have been unable to confirm the religious demography of those kidnapped.
ICC's Regional Manager, William Stark, told BosNewsLife that the "events of this week once again prove Boko Haram's unrelenting and uncompromising willingness to commit crimes against humanity in pursuit of its goal to establish a separate Islamic state ruled by Sharia Law" or Islamic law.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has come under pressure to improve security. "While ICC continues to join the international community in calling for a return to a peaceful Nigeria, we cannot refuse to recognize the Nigerian State's inability to provide the security necessary to ensure prosperous living for the nation's Christians and other minority religions," Stark said.
"If Nigeria continues to fail to respond to Boko Haram in any meaningful way, Nigeria may be destined to civil war with a north ruled by radical Islamists, and all that entails."
Last week's violence is part of a wider campaign by Boko Haram, which often targets schools, government institutions and religious minorities, mostly Christians, as it seeks to create a purely Islamic society in northern Nigeria. In 2014 alone, more than 1,500 people have been killed by Boko Haram, many of whom are known Christians whose communities have been pillaged and churches set ablaze, according to several rights groups.