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Villagers want weapons after mosque attack

14 August 2013, 07:42

Konduga — Residents of the village where suspected Boko Haram members gunned down 47 people praying in a mosque demanded on Tuesday that the government give them weapons to defend themselves.

Earlier reports about Sunday's attack in Konduga village had given a lower death toll, 44. Another 12 civilians died in a simultaneous attack on a nearby village.

The violence has been blamed on the Boko Haram, and district head Yale Zannah Masu said that his village of Konduga was besieged for hours by "terrorists" — including women who set ablaze 51 homes.

Terrorist attacks by women would be unusual but themilitary has reported arresting suspected female members of Boko Haram as well as male suspects disguised in women's robes and veils.

Zannah Masu spoke during a visit to Konduga by governor of Borno state, Kashim Shetimma, who drove under military escort the 35 kilometers from Maiduguri to the nearly deserted village.

He was met by a few enraged people who complained bitterly that the government had sent too few troops to protect them.

"We suffered this pain and loss because there is limited number of soldiers here," Zannah Masu told Shetimma.

Others blamed the government for banning their homemade hunting rifles two years ago, saying it left them with nothing to fight off the attack. They said the government needs to give them guns for self-defense.

The governor offered free medical treatment for the 39 wounded people described by Zannah Masu and 250,000 naira ($1,560) for each bereaved family.

On Tuesday, Britain's Foreign Office minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, strongly condemned the  attack.

"Attacking innocent people in a place of worship is a contemptible and cowardly act," he said in a statement. He said Britain "stands with the government and people of Nigeria as they seek to reduce violence in the northeast of the country."

There was no immediate comment from the government despite a request to presidential spokesman Reuben Abati.

An army officer who identified himself only as Maj. Bello said soldiers killed eight extremists but the attackers managed to get away with others who were wounded. A member of a civilian militia that works with the military said four of his group were killed.

Nineteen-year-old Abba Muhammed told the AP he survived the attack because he was late doing the ritual wash before prayers. "I was performing ablutions behind the mosque when they came shooting. Most of them spoke Kanuri and I heard them saying 'Shoot them all; Don't allow them to run.'

"I crawled quietly and was able to escape because it was still dark and there was no electricity."

The news about Sunday's violence in Borno state came as journalists received a video Monday featuring Abubakar Shekau, who gloats over recent attacks, threatens more, and says his group is now strong enough to go after the United States.

In the video, Shekau brushes off any gains asserted by the security forces.

"You soldiers have claimed that you are powerful, that we have been defeated, that we are mad people," Shekau says, speaking in Hausa. "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?

He says, "We have killed countless soldiers and we are going to kill more," and insists the extremists' "strength and firepower has surpassed that of Nigeria. ... We can now comfortably confront the United States of America."

He claimed his movement is strong enough to take on American President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Shekau also said the military is "lying to the world" about its casualties.

"They lied that they have killed our members, but we are the ones that have killed the soldiers."

- AP


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