Nigeria mosque attack: At least 56 dead in Islamist violence

The coordinated assaults come as terrorist group Boko Haram claims it has enough firepower to take on the US

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The Independent Online

An attack on a mosque in Nigeria has killed 44 worshippers, while a simultaneous bombing in the same region killed another 12 civilians.

The violence is believed to be the latest in a series of clashes between state military and radical Islamist group Boko Haram, whose leader recently claimed they are prepared to take on the US, France and Israel in combat, let alone the Nigerian army.

Local reports suggested the radical group launched the assault on fellow Muslims because residents in the state of Borno had been assisting the government in a clampdown on terrorist-controlled areas.

AFP estimated that the insurgency has claimed more than 3,600 lives since 2009, and a state of emergency has been declared while the military makes a push to end the conflict once and for all.

The killing of worshippers occurred on Sunday morning in Konduga town, 35km (22 miles) outside Maiduguri, the capital of Borno.

A state security service agent and Usman Musa, a member of a civilian militia that works with the military, said on Monday they had counted the bodies at the mosque after the attack after four members of the Civilian Joint Task Force were also killed when they encountered “fierce resistance from heavily armed terrorists.”

Mr Musa and the security service agent said the attackers wore military camouflage uniforms used by the Nigerian army, which they may have acquired in one of their attacks on military bases.

On their way back from Konduga, the security forces came upon the scene of another attack at Ngom village, 5km (3 miles) outside Maiduguri, where they counted 12 more bodies of civilians.

Another 26 worshippers at the mosque were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, according to a security guard at the emergency ward of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

The violence came as reporters from AFP received a video recorded by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, in which he claimed responsibility for recent deaths and gloated about the continuing power of his insurgency.

“You soldiers have claimed that you are powerful, that we have been defeated, that we are mad people,” Shekau said, speaking in the local Hausa language.

“But how can a mad man successfully coordinate recent attacks in Gamboru, in Malam Fatori, slaughter people in Biu, kill in Gwoza and in Bama, where soldiers fled under our heavy fire power?

”We have killed countless soldiers and we are going to kill more.“

He also said the extremists' ”strength and firepower has surpassed that of Nigeria. ... We can now comfortably confront the United States of America.“

Under the state of emergency orders in northeast Nigeria, mobile phone and internet service has been suspended. The military says the extremists were using phones to coordinate their attacks.

But some government officials argue that the lack of communication prevents civilians from informing them of suspicious movements and getting help when they are in danger.

Nigeria’s population of 160 million people is divided between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south. Boko Haram has been battling for four years to turn the north into a separate state under Islamic law, posing the greatest security threat the country has faced in years.