Nigeria, West Africa
Since 2005, the Nigerian Taliban (which has no connection to the Taliban of Afghanistan) has been suspected of having connections to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali and Al Qaeda affiliates. To date, no conclusive links have been definitively proven, although Osama bin Ladin went on record in 2003 saying that Nigeria was fertile ground for action.
In December 2006, Mohammed Yusuf, a Maiduguri-based imam and alleged "Nigerian Taliban" leader was charged with five counts of illegally receiving foreign currency. His trial was still ongoing at the end of 2007. Also in December 2006, Mohammed Ashafa of Kano was charged with receiving funds in 2004 from two Al Qaeda operatives based in Lahore, Pakistan to "identify and carry out terrorist attacks" on American residences in Nigeria.
On January 16, 2007, Mohammed Bello Ilyas Damagun, a Nigerian cleric described by prosecutors as a primary sponsor of the Nigerian Taliban, was arraigned on three counts of terrorism. Damagun was accused of receiving the sum of $300,000 from Sudanese extremists or an Al Qaeda affiliate in Sudan “with the intent that said money shall be used in the execution of acts of terrorism.”
On July 27, 2007, the government of Nigeria introduced e-passports containing a data chip, which will allow for easier passport authentication and fraudulent documentation detection. Besides enhanced security, the system will provide the country's first electronic database of biometric information.
In September 2005, a draft antiterrorism bill was approved by the Nigerian cabinet and sent to the National Assembly. The bill provided for sentences of up to 35 years for those convicted of a terrorist offense. Membership in a banned organization carried lighter jail sentences that could be replaced by a fine. The bill was withdrawn, however, the day of its second reading in the Senate due to opposition from northern senators who argued that the motivation for such a bill was anti-Muslim sentiment.
Challenges for Christians:
Around 1,000 people were displaced, several critically wounded, and every church reportedly destroyed in Shira Yana, Bauchi State, Nigeria on February 2, 2008, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). This is the latest in a series of recent incidents of religious violence in northern and central Shari’ah states.
The violence erupted after a young woman was accused of blaspheming against the prophet Mohammed. According to local sources, the young woman had spurned the advances of a young Muslim man on the previous day. In a last effort the man appealed to her to speak to him “in the name of the Messenger,” to which she responded that she knew no messenger.
Elsewhere, a Baptist church and a Deeper Life church were set ablaze in the Angwan Pama area of Shendam in predominantly Christian Plateau State on January 31, 2008. A car owned by a local Christian that was parked close to the churches was also destroyed in the blaze. On February 1, 2008, six Christian-owned houses were razed to the ground in Mavo, in the Wase Local Government Area of southern Plateau State.
CSW Advocacy Director Tina Lambert said: “This recent wave of violence in central and northern Nigeria is disturbing, and we can only hope it does not indicate an upsurge in religious violence during 2008.”
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, CIA Factbook, Wikipedia, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007
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