(CNN) — The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has issued an ultimatum giving Christians living in northern Nigeria three days to leave the area amid a rising tide of violence there.
A Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, also said late Sunday that Boko Haram fighters are ready to confront soldiers sent to the area under a state of emergency declared in parts of four states by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday.
“We will confront them squarely to protect our brothers,” Abul Qaqa said during a telephone call with local media. He also called on Muslims living in southern Nigeria to “come back to the north because we have evidence they will be attacked.”
Recent weeks have seen an escalation in clashes between Boko Haram and security forces in the north-eastern states of Borno and Yobe, as well as attacks on churches and assassinations. Nearly 30 people were killed on Christmas Day at a Catholic church near the federal capital, Abuja — a sign that Boko Haram is prepared to strike beyond its heartland.
Human rights activist Shehu Sani told CNN that the latest Boko Haram threat is credible, but many Christians born and raised in the north have nowhere else to go.
“The killings will continue,” he said, and Boko Haram may respond to the state of emergency by taking its campaign of violence to areas not yet affected….
Nigeria has almost equal numbers of Christian and Muslims, with the south predominantly Christian. Boko Haram and other Islamic groups claim the north has been starved of resources and marginalized by the government of Jonathan, who is a Christian.
Boko Haram (which according to the group means “Western civilization is forbidden”) is demanding the imposition of Islamic sharia law across Nigeria.
Christian leaders have demanded a stronger response to the attacks from the government and the Muslim community. Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, complained last week that the response of Islamic leaders had been “unacceptable and an abdication of their responsibilities.”
“The Christian community is fast losing confidence in government’s ability to protect our rights,” Oritsejafor said….
Source: CNN, Jihad Watch