Nigeria’s Kano prays for peace after deadly attacks


Nigerian officials and clerics said peace prayers in Kano Monday after a wave of bomb-and-gun attacks claimed by Islamists left more than 160 dead and raised fresh fears of civil unrest. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, facing his worst crisis since winning April polls amid a surge in attacks by Islamist sect Boko Haram and mounting social discontent, vowed to beef up security.
Several bombs were set off and gun battles raged in coordinated attacks that were launched after Friday prayers in Nigeria’s second largest city and lasted several hours. Jonathan, after visiting the city on Sunday, said that some suspects had been arrested and that his government would track down the masterminds.
“We will strengthen the security in Kano and other parts of the country,” he said, vowing to track down Boko Haram’s sponsors. As the ancient holy Muslim city of about 4.5 million people still reeled from one of Boko Haram’s bloodiest attacks, some 200 Muslim clerics and political leaders gathered for special peace prayers. “I will pray to God that we should never re-live the catastrophe that resulted in the deaths and maiming in our city,” Kano State governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said.
The emir Ado Bayero told the clerics: “I enjoin you to continue praying for peace and stability in our city. I call upon you to use any religious fora to pray for peace in our land.” A purported spokesman for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it was in response to a refusal by the authorities to release its members from custody.
Some detainees being held at a police station in the city were thought to have been freed during the attacks which targeted mainly police buildings. Senate president David Mark said he and the speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal, had ignored security to travel to Kano.
“We want to ensure that a few misguided Nigerians who have been led into this action don’t take this country hostage… it is not about religion, this affects the entire nation,” he told the state governor and his officials. Jonathan is battling the worst crisis of his nine-month tenure as the violence has raised fears of an all-out civil war in Africa’s most populous nation and top oil producer.
He has said some of the Boko Haram members have infiltrated government — from the security agencies to the legislature and the executive arm of government. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo however tried to downplay the crisis. “Even though it is a big challenge to the Nigerian people and its government, it is not one that… shakes Nigeria to its foundation,” Obasanjo said in Banjul late Sunday after meeting Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.
Jonathan imposed emergency rule in parts of Nigeria’s north on December 31 after a wave of violence blamed on Boko Haram, including attacks on churches on Christmas Day. But Kano, which had escaped the worst of the violence in recent months, was not among the areas covered.
Relief workers said the overall death toll was at least 166 but a doctor at a major hospital said the toll could soar to 250. Around 50 people were gathered outside a main hospital morgue awaiting to collect remains of loved ones for burial on Monday.