01/03/2012, 00.00
NIGERIA - ISLAM
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Boko Haram gives three day ultimatum to the Christians to flee Northern Nigeria

The "Nigerian Taliban" also advise Muslims in the south to return to the north because they risk being killed by soldiers. Thousands of Christians fleeing. The bishops reject the sectarian drift of the conflict and ask for more security, but also no retaliation.
Lagos (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Christians in northern Nigeria have three days to leave the area before a series of attacks against them: This is the ultimatum set by the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for the massacres that took place Christmas day in 12 sites across the states of Yobe and Borno (northeast), Niger (West), Plateau (central Nigeria). The killings have claimed the lives of over 40 people and already thousands of Christians are fleeing in terror.

The ultimatum comes a few days after the decision by President Goodluck Jonathan (a Christian) to declare a state of emergency for the areas attacked, with the deployment of armed soldiers.

The ultimatum also includes advice to the Muslims in the south to flee towards the north (which is Muslim majority) to avoid becoming a victim of attacks by soldiers.

A spokesman for Boko Haram, Abul Qaqa, told the media that "our Muslim brothers are advised to return to the north, because we have evidence that they will be attacked. We also issue a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the north of Nigeria, to leave. We have serious indications to suggest that the soldiers only kill the innocent Muslims in areas where government has declared a state of emergency. We will face them decisively to protect our brothers. "

The Nigerian police have described these threats and warnings by Boko Haram as "empty and baseless". "We want to assure all Nigerians that they are safe wherever they live," said Yemi Ajayi, spokesman for the police. "The Nigerian police - he added - has a mandate to protect lives and property and will continue to offer this responsibility without fear or favouritism."

Boko Haram ("Western education is a sin"), is a group with suspected links to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, fighting to implement an Islamic state ruled by Sharia. Since the death of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, two years ago, it seems to have recovered strength, power and effectiveness. Many terrorist attacks of recent years, against Christians, but also against moderate Muslims, are attributed to its members, who call themselves the "Nigerian Taliban".

The militants of the Boko Haram exploit the difficulties of the country - divided between a poorer (and predominantly Muslim) north and richer (and predominantly Christian) south, together with superficiality and incompetence of the incumbent government – along confessional lines.

The bishops of Nigeria have always rejected the idea of a sectarian war in the country, a major producer of oil and coveted prey for both Middle Eastern and Western governments.

Regarding the ultimatum against the Christians in the North, the Bishop of Jos, Msgr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, interviewed by Vatican Radio, has asked the government to ensure the safety of the population, but also not to carry out "reprisals". "We say no to retaliation - he said - and we continue to preach peace, hoping that all of us in Nigeria, Muslims and Christians, we will be able to work and live happily together. This is our position: no to violence, no to retaliation. We want to live in peace. "
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