Anticipation of further violence as Nigeria begins voting for its next president is growing after the release of a new video shows Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau threatening that the election ‘will not happen in peace’.
The chilling message will alarm Christians from Nigeria’s northern states who live in persistent fear of attack from the group.
In the lead up to the elections a Nigerian pastor visited the UK parliament to highlight the problems Christians face in the troubled region. Afterwards, in an exclusive interview, Pastor Daniel Awayi told World Watch Monitor about atrocities carried out on his congregation by Boko Haram.
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Ahead of Nigeria’s delayed Presidential election on 28 March, the world’s media remain focused on the continued attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in the country’s north-eastern states and their cross-border raids into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Nigeria’s government has failed to stop the group taking control of large swathes of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states. The standard refrain that the insurgency will ‘soon be over’ was repeated on 20 March when President Goodluck Jonathan assured the BBC that the Islamists would soon have no more control of any territory.
500 children missing
Other countries in Africa are beginning to take the initiative in dealing with Boko Haram. Both Niger and Chad recently sent soldiers across the border to make retaliatory strikes. Damasak, a town close to Niger’s border, has been recaptured by the coalition but on 24 March it was revealed that about 500 children under 11 are missing. Witnesses suspect they were taken by Boko Haram as they retreated.
But it is feared by security experts that gains by the coalition might force Boko Haram to retaliate against soft targets like the IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and revert to guerrilla tactics of bombings and suicide attacks.
Chad and Niger, together with other African states, are meanwhile appealing to the United Nations to finance a military force and to share intelligence and equipment. A draft UN Security Council resolution suggests a force created by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin. It is hoped the Council will vote on the resolution by the end of March.
Young girl suicide bombers
One town that has been in the news a lot this year is Potiskum in Yobe state. There have been at least three suicide bombs there in recent months. In one, on 24 February, a man killed 15 and injured 53. Two days earlier, six people in a phone market were killed by a young girl suicide bomber. Her identity is unknown but she is a reminder to the world that Boko Haram still holds captive the majority of the 276 schoolgirls abducted in April 2014.
Pastor Daniel Awayi of Potiskum visited the UK in January. His church has been attacked five times by the Islamic terrorist group, the most recent in January when yet another young female suicide bomber detonated a bomb at his church gates. No one died that time, though several were injured.
Awayi does his best to support victims of the attacks. In this video he talks about two families that became casualties of Boko Haram terrorism in November 2012. Both were confronted, asked to abandon their Christian faith and convert to Islam. Both were shot in the head for refusing to deny their faith and convert. One, Habila Adamu, made a miraculous recovery. He later went on to give evidence that encouraged the US State Department to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organisation.