Nigeria begins 2018 with deadly attacks

LAGOS, Nigeria –Unknown gunmen killed 17 persons during church services in Nigeria’s River State. Local officials say the gunmen shot the 17 worshipers during a New Year’s service at the church.

Osi Olisa, a leader of a local community group, said on Tuesday that the gunmen also killed some people along the road before fleeing the community.

Also on the same Tuesday, at least three people were killed in a blast in the town of Madagali in northeastern Nigeria.

So far, no group has claimed any responsibility for the attacks in River State as well as in Madagali, even though many people and authorities suspect an armed group believed to be behind kidnappings and killings in the area.

According to eyewitnesses and various reports, gun violence has been very common in several parts of Nigeria, especially in the country’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, where various militant groups campaigned against multinational companies to demand a share of the oil proceeds.

Others, especially local residents, believed the terror group Boko Haram, which has been blamed for the killing of over 20,000 people in Nigeria since 2009, is suspected of being responsible for the bomb blast and the killings.

Meanwhile, there is a surge in Boko Haram attacks in most parts of Nigeria’s ungovernable areas.   Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the terrorist group released a video message on Tuesday claiming a series of attacks in northeast Nigeria during the festive season.

Shekau in the 31-minute video message spoken in Hausa language common across northern Nigeria said: “We are in good health and nothing has happened to us,”

“Nigerian troops, police and those creating mischief against us can’t do anything against us, and you will gain nothing,” he said.

“We carried out the attacks in Maiduguri, in Gamboru, in Damboa. We carried out all these attacks.”

Security analysts say Shekau’s message comes during an acceleration of Boko Haram attacks and just days after the jihadists killed 25 people outside Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Islamist insurgency.

Despite Boko Haram’s surge, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in his New Year’s address that Boko Haram has been “beaten”.

“Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror,” said Buhari.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.
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