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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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  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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