Nigerian Christians condemn attack on Islamic leader
7/14/2012 5:10:01 PM -
LAGOS (AFP) - Nigerian Christians on Saturday condemned an attempt on the life of a key Islamic leader the previous day, a suicide bombing that missed its target but killed five bystanders.
The teenage assassin also died in the attack after Friday prayers outside a mosque in Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state which is a hotbed of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president Ayo Oritsejafor in a statement said he "condemns" the attempt to kill the Muslim leader, Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, who carries the title of Shehu of Borno.
The CAN leader "prays that those who rise against innocent Nigerians will crash in defeat in Jesus Name," said the statement, describing the targeted cleric as "a good man with humane character".
No group has claimed responsibility for the bloody attack, but suspicion fell on Boko Haram, which has targeted Kanemi in the past and claimed the assassination last year of his brother.
The Christian group urged Washington to designate Boko Haram a "foreign terrorist organisation". The US last month declared three Boko Haram leaders global terrorists and said it may blacklist the entire group.
Oritsejafor urged Kanemi to continue to "work for the peace and unity of Nigeria, the evil machinations of those who masterminded the attack notwithstanding".
Boko Haram has said it wants to create an Islamic state in north Nigeria and has disowned religious leaders such as Kanemi, charging they have allowed themselves to be ruled by Nigeria's secular government.
The radical Islamist sect has long stated its loathing for Kanemi, a hugely popular symbol of Islamic tradition in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.
Boko Haram has operated in Nigeria since 2002 but intensified their attacks in 2009 and has claimed more than 1,000 lives since, mostly targeting security services, symbols of authority and Christian churches.
Pastor Oritsejafor in the statement appealed to all Nigerians to help "end this orgy of violence and blood-letting".