Abuja, Nigeria—As many as 35,000 people have fled their homes in northern Nigeria after continuing attacks from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Their numbers include a large number of Catholics who report that churches have been destroyed.
“There is panic. Many just leave everything behind, and run for safety, because they do not know when violence might flare up again,” a source told Aid to the Church in Need on Jan. 24.
On Jan. 20, Boko Haram killed at least 185 people in attacks that rocked Kano city, located in the state of Borno, the Associated Press reports. The coordinated attacks used cars with heavy explosives and suicide bombers who targeted police stations. Men in security uniforms gunned down government officials.
Churches have also been destroyed in Maidiguri in Borno and the city of Bauchi, in Bauchi state.
“It is the stated goal of Boko Haram to make the whole of the north free of Christians,” one source told Aid to the Church in Need.
At the beginning of January, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa gave Christians a three-day ultimatum to leave the area.
Refugees are headed to where they believe it is safe, especially the city of Jos.
Boko Haram’s name means “western education is sinful” in Nigeria’s Hausa language. The group has killed at least 935 people since its 2009 uprising, and more than 250 since the beginning of 2012, Human Rights Watch reports.
The Catholic bishops of Nigeria have decried the actions of the group.
Analysts believe the group intends to make the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, appear unable to control the country.