Boko Haram was formed in 2002 by Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, capital of the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno. Originally formed to fight against government corruption and economic disparities between the north and the richer south, its aim now is to overthrow the government, create an Islamic state and impose strict sharia law. Borno, where Boko Haram has its base, is one of twelve northern states in which sharia is already in force. Christians are supposed to be exempt, but are often forced to comply.
Two church members died and 37 were injured on Sunday 26 February when a suicide bomber drove a car laden with bombs into the worship service of a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation in Jos, the capital city of Plateau state in central Nigeria. A man claiming to be a spokesman for Boko Haram reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast.
Anti-Christian violence continues to intensify in Nigeria, with attacks by the extreme Islamist Boko Haram group killing over 96 people (including those pictured) since Christmas Day, and more than 500 people in 2011, the majority of them Christians.
During September, over 100 Christians have died following attacks by Muslim extremists in three states in Nigeria.
Muslim extremists killed five Christians in Niger state on 22 September and three in Kaduna state on 17 September.
Early on the morning of Sunday 7th March 2010, about 500 Christians were killed by Muslim gangs in raids on three Nigerian villages.
These mainly-Christian farming villages are near the city of Jos, the regional capital of Plateau State, an area that has been the scene of much violence over the years, as Christians from Nigeria’s south and Muslims from the north compete over fertile farmland.
Christianah Oluwasesin, a secondary school teacher at Gombe in northern Nigeria was murdered last week by a mob of Muslim students at the school, along with outside Islamic extremists. They beat, stoned, and clubbed her to death and then burned her The attack was sparked by claims that she desecrated the Quran.
A Nigerian pastor and 48 other Christians died after machete-wielding militants stormed a church in Yelwa, Plateau State, where they had sought refuge.
Rev Samson Bukar, chairman of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), was among the victims rushed to a hospital funded by Release International (RI), but he later died of injuries.