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African Islamist groups link up, intensi...

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African Islamist groups link up, intensifying threat to Christians

Country/Region: Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Somalia, Mali, Kenya, Libya, Middle East and North Africa

Three of Africa’s most violent Islamist groups, which have perpetrated deadly attacks on Christians and other targets, are linking up, signalling a mounting security threat on the continent. 

Boko_Haram_militants_4X3.jpg
Boko Haram militants are waging war against Christians in Nigeria

This was the assessment of General Carter F. Ham, commander of the US military’s Africa Command, speaking at an African Center for Strategic Studies seminar on 25 June.

He said that there are indications that Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are pooling money and explosives and training fighters together.

General Ham said:

Each of those three organizations is by itself a dangerous and worrisome threat. What really concerns me is the indications that the three organisations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts.

Boko Haram has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria since 2009, killing over 1,000 people in attacks that have specifically targeted the security forces and Christians. The group has stepped up its campaign against Christians in particular this year, issuing increasingly sinister threats and bombing churches on an almost weekly basis.

Following systematic suicide bombings at three churches in Kaduna state on 17 June, Boko Haram released a statement that said:

From now on, they [Christians] either follow the right religion or there will be no peace for them.

The US State Department last month designated as terrorists three senior Boko Haram figures, drawing criticism for failing to designate the whole group as a terrorist entity.

Al-Shabaab controls most of southern Somalia, where they impose an extremely strict version of sharia. Their ultimate goal is to turn the entire country into an Islamic state. Al-Shabaab militants have killed numerous converts from Islam to Christianity in Somalia, vowing a few years ago that they would kill all Christians in the capital, Mogadishu.

The group is also suspected of being behind a number of recent attacks on churches and Christian gatherings in neighbouring Kenya.

AQIM is an al-Qaeda affiliated criminal outfit based in North Africa. It has been behind numerous bomb attacks on official buildings in Algeria, kidnaps westerners for ransom and aids the African drugs trade.

The position of Islamists in the region has been strengthened not only by the growing cooperation between the groups, but also by a rebel takeover in northern Mali and a breakdown of security in Libya.   

Al-Qaeda linked Islamist groups, including Ansar Dine, seized control of northern Mali along with separatist rebels in April, driving Christians out. The Islamists and separatists clashed over the imposition of sharia, the latter wanting a secular regime. On 28 June, the Islamists declared that they had secured full control of the territory from the separatists. They are enforcing a very harsh version of sharia and have drawn international condemnation for destroying historical mausoleums in Timbuktu that they regard as idolatrous. 

General Ham said that AQIM is now operating “essentially unconstrained” throughout large parts of northern Mali following the rebel takeover.

The breakdown of security in Libya as a result of the Arab Spring has increased the availability and movement of militants and weapons in the region; Colonel Gaddafi had kept extremists on a tight leash. 

This all bodes extremely ill for the region’s long-suffering Christians, whose presence Islamist militants want to eradicate by any means necessary.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Praise God for the continued Christian presence in northern Mali, despite the apparent desire of jihadists to wipe it out. Most of the Christians who had fled the region when Islamist radicals took control in 2012 have now returned to their homes, after French troops ousted the Islamists. Many church buildings were desecrated, looted or severely damaged, but the Christians are determined to resume their ministries. Pray for their protection. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 13 hours ago

    • Continue to pray for church leaders in Christian-majority Burundi that they may have wisdom in responding to the unfamiliar situation of political restriction by their own government. A new law passed in August requires each church to have at least 500 members and a proper building; congregations were given a year to comply. Pray that religious liberty will be maintained in Burundi, both for Christians and for the small minorities who follow other religions. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Dec 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we pray to you for our Christian brothers and sisters in north-eastern Nigeria, who are so vulnerable in the face of attacks by Boko Haram militants. We remember especially those who used to live in Shani, in Borno state, until their town was raided by Boko Haram on 29 November. We cry out to You to intervene and bring an end to the murderous attacks by Boko Haram. We pray for all the thousands of Nigerian Christians who have suffered in similar attacks that they will not lose hope or faith in You, but will know Your peace which passes understanding. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Dec 2014 00:00

    • “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” said the Lord Jesus. (John 15:20). Let us not forget our brothers and sisters who suffer daily because of their faithfulness to Christ and help them with our prayers (Philippians 1:19). Pray that they may take comfort in the words of the Lord Jesus, knowing that He understands what they are enduring for His Name. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Dec 2014 00:00

    • The substantial Armenian Christian population of Syria are mostly descendants of Armenians who fled to Syria to escape from the Armenian Genocide, which peaked in 1915. The attacks of Islamist groups in Syria, which they now face, seem to them like another genocide. But praise God for their courage and determination. When the mainly Armenian town of Kessab and its surrounding villages were attacked the inhabitants fled for safety to Latakia. After the Syrian army had liberated Kessab, the Armenian families began to return to their homes, even though there was no electricity or water and they had to go back to Latakia every night to sleep. Elsewhere, when the situation in Homs stabilised, an Armenian congregation wanted to repair their church building first, but their church leader urged them to focus on making their homes habitable again. Pray that they may remain strong in the Lord. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Dec 2014 00:00

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