Nigeria's government faulted after terrorist attack kills Christians

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Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos. Credit: ACN.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos is criticizing the Nigerian administration for poor intelligence gathering and failing to arrest terrorists, following a Sept. 23 suicide bombing at the cathedral in Bauchi.

“Unless the individuals are identified, we will continue to go round in circles and the violence will occur again and again. The government is not on top of the security situation,” the archbishop told Aid to the Church in Need on Sept. 24.

The attack occurred after the first Mass on Sunday morning at St. John's Cathedral in Bauchi. A suicide bomber approached the cathedral's security barricade but was prevented by security staff from entering. Once he was denied entry, the bomber rammed his car into the barrier and detonated his bomb.

The bomber killed himself, a boy, and a young woman, and up to two other people. More than 40 were injured in the attack. Casualties were low because Mass-goers are “security conscious” and were leaving the cathedral in phases, Archbishop Kaigama said.

The attack was the second in a week in Bauchi. In an earlier outburst, gunmen killed nine Christians and injured five.

Responsibility for the attack has not been claimed, but it is typical of an Islamist organization called Boko Haram. Boko Haram is opposed to Western education and desires the imposition of sharia throughout the country.

Archbishop Kaigama asserted that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, himself a Christian, has failed to “get on top of the security situation.”

According to the Associated Press, Boko Haram has been responsible for more than 690 killings this year alone.

The string of violence has left Archbishop Kaigama “very unhappy with the government's record on tackling the violence.”

But Christians will continue to attend Mass, in spite of the threats and violence, he stated. “People somehow have become much stronger. If there is any event in that cathedral over the coming days, you can be sure that it will be full.”

“No matter what,” Archbishop Kaigama insisted, “the people will not give into Boko Haram and other extremists. They have a courage and a determination to go back to church regardless of the dangers.”

However, the Jos archbishop said that “until people can gather freely, it will be very difficult to see a way forward.”

The archbishop wants the government to respond by heightening security and cracking down on Islamist terrorists.

Overnight between Sept. 23 and 24, the Nigerian military rounded up Boko Haram militants in the Yobe and Adamawa states, which are near Bauchi state. Thirty-six were killed in the sweep, and more than 150 were arrested.

Bauchi is a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Jos, which is led by Archbishop Kaigama.

Both dioceses are located in the north of the country, which is predominantly Muslim. Most Christians in the country reside in the south.

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