MAIDUGURI, Nigeria—Gunmen on Sunday attacked services at three churches near the Nigerian village where 276 schoolgirls were abducted in April, part of a pounding of a Christian pocket in the predominantly Muslim north.
Residents of Chibok, where the schoolgirls were abducted from a boarding school just ahead of final exams, said at least 30 people were killed when attackers fired on churches in three nearby villages.
An exact toll of the dead and wounded wasn’t clear. Survivors continued to trickle into Chibok, said two residents.
Pastor Musa Yahya said nearly 100 people had gathered for the 8:30 a.m. service at his small Methodist church in the village of Mgudina, 7 miles east of Chibok, when gunfire erupted outside. His congregants scattered into the bush. Mr. Yahya grabbed his bicycle and pedaled to a neighboring village, where he caught a ride to Chibok on his brother’s bicycle.
“It was hysteria,” Mr. Yahya said. “When we heard the sound of the guns we rushed out. We knew it was Boko Haram.”
Boko Haram didn’t immediately claim responsibility for the attack. The anti-Western Islamist militancy has terrorized the region for years.
The group’s radicalized young followers have killed thousands of people and attacked churches and government offices. The group is also blamed for shooting up mosques, and scores of Muslims have died during the five-year insurgency.
Spokesmen for President Goodluck Jonathan and for the military didn’t respond to calls and text messages seeking comment on Sunday.
Although Boko Haram has driven thousands of people out of villages—and planted flags in territory it now claims—the schoolgirls’ kidnapping in April was what caught the world’s attention. Foreign powers including the U.S., the U.K. and China are helping Nigerian forces search for Boko Haram encampments along Nigeria’s vast and lawless northeastern borders, but there has been little visible progress so far.
Even as Nigeria ramps up the search for the missing girls, scores of people—including more schoolgirls—have been abducted in recent weeks. On Wednesday, a car bomb detonated outside a shopping mall in the capital, Abuja, killing 21 people.
“Terrorism cannot survive in Nigeria,” Vice President Namadi Sambo said when he visited the wreckage of the mall bombing last week. “We will not rest until it is extinguished.”
But many residents in the desolate stretches of northeastern Nigeria hardest hit by the insurgency say they have little faith the government and military can quell the violence.
“The government doesn’t care. We don’t see any help,” said Wuawe Tambidugu, a 56-year-old religion teacher in the regional capital, Maiduguri.
Article By: Patrick McGroarty, Wall Street Journal