In 1999 with the return to civil government control in Nigeria, the predominately Muslim north of the country was granted the right to impose Islamic Sharia law in 12 states. Now with the eruption of a virtual Jihad over this issue in this important, but troubled oil-rich country in the Gulf of Guinea, the government has undertaken brutal reprisals against the Sharia sect that fomented the call for Jihad including invading Mosques and killing rebellious leaders and adherents.
For the Obama Administration, Nigerian repression of Sharia advocates may present a problem in light of the President’s Cairo speech and outreach to the Muslim ummah, as well as his recent visit to sub Sahara Africa and speech in Ghana. World News noted in a recent report on Obama’s African trip that he avoided visiting Nigeria because of a “ problematic 2007 election” in that country. One immediate issue is what the US African Command ( AFRICOM ) would lend counterterrorism support to the Nigerian government, and other African countries in contending with home grown Jihad. This is not a regional matter, as West African oil fields are a major source of foreign oil imports for the US economy.
This AP report , “Nigerian troops attack Islamist mosque, kill 100,” discloses what the Nigerian Army did in one action to put down what could become a possible civil war over the untoward consequences of Nigera’s adoption of Sharia for the northern Muslim states.
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Troops shelled the compound of an Islamist sect blamed for days of violence in northern Nigeria then attacked its mosque, killing at least 100 militants in a fierce battle.
Sect leader Mohammed Yusuf escaped along with about 300 followers but his deputy was killed in Wednesday night's bombardment, according to Army commander Maj. Gen. Saleh Maina.
The army was conducting a house-to-house manhunt Thursday on the outskirts of Maiduguri for Yusuf and his followers.
An AP reporter watched soldiers shoot their way into the mosque in Maiduguri on Wednesday and then rake those holed up inside with gunfire. The reporter later counted about 50 bodies inside the building and another 50 in the courtyard outside. The militants were armed with homemade hunting rifles, bows and arrows and scimitars.
Another five corpses were just inside a large house near the mosque. Maina pointed to the body of a plump, bearded man and said it the Boko Haram sect's vice chairman, Bukar Shekau.
"The mission has been accomplished," said Maina, the army commander.
Militants seeking to impose Islamic Sharia law throughout this multi-religious country attacked police stations, churches, prisons and government buildings in a wave of violence that began Sunday in Borno state and quickly spread to three other states in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
It is not known how many scores of people have been killed, wounded and arrested. Relief official Apollus Jediel said about 1,000 people had abandoned their homes Wednesday due to the violence, joining 3,000 displaced earlier this week in the four states.
The epicenter of the violence has been the Boko Haram's headquarters in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, which was bombarded Wednesday. Maina said his troops would fire mortar shells later Thursday to destroy what is left of the sprawling compound, which stretches over 2.5 miles (4 kilometers).
Borno Gov. Ali Modu Sheriff told journalists he had a report that Yusuf had been seen Wednesday night in a village about 28 miles (45 kilometers) northeast of Maiduguri, and that he had asked for troops to be deployed there.
In other violence, Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper reported that militants attacked security forces in Yobe state on Wednesday, and quoted police as saying that 43 sect members were killed in a shootout near the state's second city, Potiskum.
Police in Bauchi state have reported 42 people killed, including two soldiers and a police officer, 67 hospitalized with serious injuries and 157 men arrested.
President Umaru Yar'Adua, who has been criticized for leaving the country Tuesday night for a state visit to Brazil, insisted before he left that the situation was under control. The military itself keep referring to "mopping up" exercises even as a full-scale battle was taking place.
Nigeria's 140 million people are nearly evenly divided between Christians, who predominate in the south, and primarily northern-based Muslims. Shariah was implemented in 12 northern states after Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 following years of oppressive military regimes. More than 10,000 Nigerians have died in sectarian violence since then.
The militants oppose western education and seek a harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah law in northern Nigeria.