News from Nigeria, Uganda and Egypt

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on January 24, 2012

NIGERIA – Islamist sect kills 150 in series of attacks

KANO | More than 150 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks Friday by a radical Islamist sect in north Nigeria’s largest city, according to an internal Red Cross document seen Sunday by an Associated Press reporter.

President Goodluck Jonathan also arrived in Kano on Sunday afternoon to pay his condolences, as military helicopters flew overhead.

A spokesman at Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital in Kano, the city’s largest hospital, declined to immediately comment Sunday on the latest count. …..

Soldiers in bulletproof vests carrying assault rifles with bayonets stood guard at roundabouts in areas where the sect had attacked.

At the regional police headquarters in Kano, which sustained particularly heavy damage, soldiers refused access to AP reporters.

Friday’s attacks by Boko Haram hit police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of Nigeria’s secret police in Kano, a city of more than 9 million people that remains an important political and religious center in the country’s Muslim north.

The coordinated attacks represent the extremist group’s deadliest assault since beginning its campaign of terror in Africa’s most populous nation. …..

A Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message to journalists Friday. He said the attacks were launched because the state government refused to release Boko Haram members held by the police.

Mr. Jonathan also condemned the attacks.

But his government repeatedly has been unable to stop attacks by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north.

The group has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law and avenge the deaths of Muslims in communal violence across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

UGANDA – Christians demand protection from Muslim extremists

KAMPALA | A Pentecostal preacher who has converted thousands of Muslims to Christianity was disfigured when men shouting “God is great” in Arabic threw acid in his face in a Christmas Eve attack that has stoked religious tensions here.

The victim, Umar Mulinde, is a Muslim convert to Christianity and now a vocal critic of Islam. He is also a key figure in opposing the establishment of Islamic civil courts in this majority Christian country.

Christians say the attack on Mr. Mulinde is symbolic of the government’s failure to protect Christians from Muslim extremists, even in a country whose population is 85 percent Christian. They say Muslims refuse to accept the concept of religious freedom, especially the right to choose how one worships.

Mainstream Muslims say they practice a tolerant version of Islam and that violent thugs like the ones who attacked Mr. Mulinde do not represent them.

Muslims make up 12 percent of the population of 35 million in this East African nation.

“The main point of contention between Muslims and Christians in Uganda is that Muslims are yet to embrace the reality of freedom of worship or coexistence, but Muslims always think that any person who doesn’t believe like them is an enemy who deserves to be killed,” said Mr. Mulinde’s wife, Evelyn, also a former Muslim.

Mr. Mulinde, with extensive knowledge of both the Koran and the Bible, was active and persuasive in many…debates [between Muslims and Christians]. He has received death threats and narrowly escaped attempts on his life several times from Muslims who do not share Uganda’s reputation for tolerance.

“I have been receiving several threats for a long time, and this last one is the worst of all,” he told Uganda’s Compass news service in a hospital interview shortly after the attack. …

Mr. Mulinde, a 38-year-old father of six, described the attacker who threw acid onto his face as a man pretending to be a Christian. The attacker approached Mr. Mulinde after the Christmas Eve service at his Gospel Life Church International, about 10 miles outside of Kampala.

“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face,” Mr. Mulinde said.  Mr. Mulinde said the man fled, shouting, “Allah akbar,” or “God is great.”

The attack disfigured the right side of his face and left him blind in his right eye.

“I was born into a Muslim family and, although I decided to become a Christian, I have been financially assisting many Muslims, as well as my relatives who are Muslims,” he told Compass.  “I have been conducting a peaceful evangelism campaign.”

Before the acid attack, Mr. Muline led a campaign to block the Ugandan legislature from allowing Muslims to bring legal action under Islamic [Sharia] law in civil courts.

The courts would have had jurisdictions over marriage, divorce and inheritance matters.

EGYPT – Coptic Christians in Egypt fear Islamists’ rise

ABO KORKAS | In a sparse, gray room with little but two pictures of Jesus on the walls, Mona Hanna sits on the floor, remembering a night nine months ago when her house was set on fire by Muslim men brandishing guns and knives.

Living in a nation marked by ongoing bouts of sectarian violence and no government protection, Ms. Hanna fears for the future of her town, Abo Korkas, which is tucked within the larger Upper Egyptian city of Minya and is home to both Muslims and Christians.

Ms. Hanna, like many others here, said prospects for her community are grim.

“Our house is closed now, and Christians on that side of town left,” she said, referring to how she and nine other families moved out of their homes after the attack. …

The Christian community in Egypt has dwindled since the birth of Islam about 1,400 years ago, but Minya remains one of the Egyptian cities with a large population of Coptic Christians, making up about 40 percent of its more than 2 million inhabitants. Copts, an Anglicized Arabic word for Egyptian, share many theological beliefs of Roman Catholicism. [The Christian minority is approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people.]

Minya also is a stronghold of Gemaa Islamiyya, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that attacked Coptic Christians, government agencies and tourists throughout the 1990s. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the hard-line Salafist al-Noor party are the most popular parties here among Muslims.

[Today in] Abo Korkas, Christian residents … are worried.  Peace was long a pillar of this town until a group of men who are believed to be Salafi Muslims set fire to the homes of Christians like Ms. Hanna’s and smashed stone walls, leaving 10 properties in soot-stained rubble.

Security forces arrested 27 Christians in the April 19 attack, residents said. Ten remain in prison, and no one knows when, or whether, they will be released. …

Muslims [say the Christians were attacked] … in retaliation for the deaths of two Muslim men who they say were shot by Christians, although Christians say medical reports fail to support that claim.

Abo Korkas Christians claim that the military was working alongside Salafis in that attack. An online video of the violence shows men dressed in military uniforms standing by as men light fires and smash homes. …

Islamists won a majority in parliamentary elections that ended last week with about 70 percent of the seats in parliament, causing Christians more concern. The next parliament will have considerable influence in appointing a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution.

Abo Korkas Christians make it clear that moderate Muslims do not worry them.  “They deal with us very well,” said Christian resident Refaat Ramzi.  Muslims who practice hard-line strains of Islam are the ones Christians fear. …

Michael Mounir [a Coptic Christian political leader] is from Abo Korkas and recently became the first Coptic Christian to head a political party in Egypt in a testament to the freedoms permitted since the revolution last year.

“I believe that as a community, fate is in our hands,” Mr. Mounir said.  “We can either rally together, work together, or disintegrate and be fragmented. The Christian community in Egypt has withstood 1,400 years of Islam. The fact that we still have millions of Christians in Egypt speaks to that resiliency.”

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at on January 22nd, and two special reports on January 18th: one on Uganda, the other on Egypt.)


NIGERIA: Boko Haram: (from

The Islamist sect Boko Haram carried out its deadliest assault in a single day, killing more than 100 people in coordinated bombings and shootings in Nigeria's second largest city of Kano late Friday.

The group's increasingly violent northern-based insurgency is straining relations between Nigeria's largely Christian south and its mostly Muslim north.

Here are some facts about Boko Haram:

  • Boko Haram became active in about 2003 and is concentrated mainly in the northern Nigerian states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna.
  • Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria means "Western education is sinful," is loosely modeled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
  • The group considers all who do not follow its strict ideology as infidels, whether they be Christian or Muslim. It demands the adoption of sharia, Islamic law, in all of Nigeria.
  • Boko Haram followers have prayed in separate mosques in cities including Maiduguri, Kano and Sokoto, and wear long beards and red or black headscarves.
  • The group published this month an ultimatum that Christians had three days to get out of northern Nigeria. Since the ultimatum, attacks in northeastern Nigeria have killed many with hundreds of Christians fleeing to the south. President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on December 31 in a bid to contain the violence.
  • Jonathan said the violent sect had supporters within his own government and the insecurity the group had created was worse than during the civil war that broke out in 1967 and killed more than a million people. 


EGYPT: (from

  • ...Sectarian strains between Christians and Muslims, who live on the south side of Abo Korkas and make up roughly one-third of the town's population, have risen since the revolution toppled President Hosni Mubarak nearly a year ago.
  • "For Christians, the revolution was a bad event," said Magdi Kamel, arrested in April with his brother, who remains in prison. "Before Mubarak [was ousted], things were quieter, things were better for us."
  • During the revolution, many Christians thought a new government would help quell repressive tactics and create opportunities for equal rights [for Christians], but the ongoing political turbulence has not improved the situation for Christians.
  • One of the main concerns plaguing this village is the lack of a proper security network that might help prevent more attacks. Police have largely been absent from Egypt's streets since they were withdrawn in January 2011, after deadly clashes with protesters. ...
  • Michael Mounir, a Coptic Christian political leader and president of the Al-Hayat Party, says Christians are not used to living without protection.  "They're living under constant fear and repression," he said.
  • On a local level, many Christians feel hopeless. Most blame the ruling interim government - headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and a group of generals - for clashes in October during a demonstration held by mostly Christian protesters that left at least 24 dead. ...