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Militants Attack Three Nigerian Churches; Dozens KilledSalem-News.com Staff
Enoch Mark, an outspoken Chibok leader since the April 14 kidnappings of the schoolgirls, gave a similar account, saying the raid was ongoing: "presently, as we are talking now, we are under attack". Nigeria
(CHIBOK, Nigeria) - Suspected Islamist militants killed dozens of people in an attack on three Nigerian villages, including one targeting worshippers at a church, a few miles from Chibok, the scene of an abduction of more than 200 school girls.
Residents said the gunmen riding on motorcycles opened fire on worshippers and pursued them as they tried to flee into the surrounding bush. The attackers hurled explosives into churches as services were ongoing and torched several buildings, witnesses said on Sunday.
The targeted villages have been identified as Kwada, Ngurojina, Karagau, Kautikari, all in Borno state, the stronghold of the Islamist group which has killed thousands during a five-year extremist uprising.
Enoch Mark, an outspoken Chibok leader since the April 14 kidnappings of the schoolgirls, gave a similar account, saying the raid was ongoing: "presently, as we are talking now, we are under attack".
"I was told the attackers burnt at least three churches to the ground," he added.
He said the community would be able to get a more accurate death toll once the violence abated, but feared the dead numbered in the dozens and said that gunmen were firing on people as they ran into the surrounding bushland.
Boko Haram, which has said it wants to create a strict Islamic state in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, has attacked churches throughout its insurgency.
According to Mr. Mark, the military did not responded to distress calls after the attack began.
"They just went and got a hiding place in the bush," he said.
While it was not immediately possible to verify the charge, if true, it would likely raise further questions about the military effort in the north-east.
Following the April abduction of 276 girls by Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok, parents and local leaders accused the military of doing almost nothing to secure the release of the hostages.
Fifty-seven of the girls escaped within days of the nighttime raid on the school and local officials have said that 219 are still being held.
Samuel Chibok, a survivor of the attack on Kautikiri village, said that around 20 men in a pick-up truck and motorcycles sprayed the town with bullets, focusing much of their fire power on panicked worshippers in a local church.
"Initially I thought they were military but when I came out, they were firing at people. I saw people fleeing and they burned our houses," he said.
"Smoke was billowing from our town as I left."
A local pro-government vigilante, who declined to be named, said residents had now recovered 15 bodies from the village. He added that many of the deaths occurred when worshippers were locked in a church, which was then sprayed with bullets.
Another attack on Kwada, eight miles from Chibok village, left dozens of people dead, a security source operating in the area said, although the precise toll was not yet clear.
A senior advisor to Borno state governor Kassim Shettima said there had also been a third attack on Nguragida, his home village which he visited on Sunday. Nine bodies had been recovered from that attack, he said.
The militants are extending their reach beyond their remote north-eastern heartlands. A bomb in an upmarket shopping district of the capital Abuja killed 21 people on Wednesday, the third attack on the capital in three months.
President Goodluck Jonathan said Nigeria had entered one of the darkest phases of its history during a visit to the scene of the Abuja blast on Friday.
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