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NIGERIA: USCIRF Condemns Horrific Attack on Worshippers in Mosque

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 2, 2014 I USCIRF

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the horrific November 28 attack on worshippers at Kano’s Central Mosque that killed and injured more than 100 persons. 

“We offer our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this senseless violence.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the injured,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett.   “We must never become inured to the horror of such violence and we urge the government of Nigeria to make it a priority to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of this cruel violence.” 

Boko Haram frequently attacks mosques and Muslim leaders who criticize the terrorist organization.  Muhammed Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, is Nigeria’s second highest Muslim leader and usually leads prayers at Kano’s Central Mosque.  However, he was out of the country when suicide bombers and gunmen raided the mosque as Friday prayers started.   Emir Sanusi dared to openly condemn the violence of Boko Haram.

USCIRF continues to recommend that the U.S. government call on the Nigerian government to utilize the judiciary fully to combat the Boko Haram movement rather than relying solely on a counterterrorism strategy involving the security services.  USCIRF also recommends that the U.S. government encourage and support the Nigerian government’s efforts to provide additional security personnel to protect northern Christian minorities, clerics, and Muslims -- including those traditional rulers who denounce Boko Haram’s attacks.  The government of Nigeria also should consider creating a witness protection program for these individuals.

Boko Haram violence has intensified in the past several months, and has attacked houses of worship and religious processions.  Dozens of Shia Muslims were killed on November 3 when a suicide bomber targeted an Ashura ceremony on Potiskum. In areas Boko Haram controls, churches have been destroyed and Christians have been told to convert, die or leave.  An estimated 650,000 people remain internally displaced due to the violence, and more than 100,000 people are refugees in Chad and Cameroon.  In addition, Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of women and school children, with reports of their being trafficked and sold into slavery. 

USCIRF recommended in its 2014 Annual Report that the State Department designate Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” (CPC). Nigeria’s democracy is being tested by recurring sectarian violence, targeted attacks against Christian and Muslim critics, the misuse of religion by politicians, religious leaders, and others, and rampant corruption.  While the Nigerian government does not engage in religious persecution, it tolerates severe violations through its continued failure to prosecute perpetrators of religiously-related violence that has killed at least 18,000 Nigerians, both Christians and Muslim.  See the chapter on Nigeria for more information.

To interview a USCIRF commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0613.