Attackers armed with guns and explosives killed 22 people at a busy church service in a northeast Nigerian village, witnesses said on Monday, in a region where Islamist sect Boko Haram is resisting a military crackdown.
They set off bombs and fired into the congregation in the Catholic church in Waga Chakawa village in Adamawa state on Sunday morning, before burning houses and taking residents hostage during a four-hour siege, witnesses said.
President Goodluck Jonathan is struggling to contain Boko Haram in remote rural regions in the country’s northeast corner, where the sect first launched an uprising in 2009.
The shady sect, which wants to impose sharia law on a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, has killed thousands over the past four and a half years and is considered the biggest security risk in Africa’s top oil exporter and second largest economy after South Africa.
Its fighters’ favorite targets have traditionally been security forces, politicians who oppose them and Christian minorities in the largely Muslim north.
The spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Yola, Reverend Father Raymond Danbouye, confirmed 22 people killed in the attack were buried at a funeral on Monday.
The military and police did not respond to requests for comment but one army source confirmed the attack, asking not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak with the media.
Waga Chakawa is near the border with Borno state, in which there was a separate assault on Monday by suspected members of the shady sect in Kawuri village, witnesses said.
Related: Gunmen disguised as traders kill at least 45 using homemade bombs in suspected Boko Haram attack on Nigerian market
At least 45 people have been killed and 26 others wounded after gunmen disguised as traders stormed a weekly market in northeast Nigeria.
The suspected Boko Haram onslaught in Borno, and the alleged shooting of 22 churchgoers in nearby Adamawa [see above], came just a week after Nigeria’s new military chief vowed to end the violence.
No reason was given for the attacks, which have fuelled fears that the Islamist group – whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’ – are growing in strength.
The first strike in Kawuri, 23 miles from state capital Maiduguri, happened at about 4pm on Sunday when gunmen in four-wheel-drive vehicles opened fire with machine guns. Witnesses claim the gang set off homemade bombs that destroyed houses and other property.
One trader who witnessed the latest attack, said: ‘The terrorists were armed with AK-47 rifles, improvised explosive devices and petrol bombs. ‘They entered the community and wreaked havoc before they fled into the Sambisa forest, which is not far from the village.