By Aderogba Obisesan (AFP) – Dec 28, 2011
LAGOS — Attackers threw a bomb into an Arabic school in Nigeria's mainly Christian south, wounding six children and an adult, police said Wednesday, after Christmas attacks stoked sectarian tensions.
Christian leaders called on their followers to take measures to defend themselves from any future attacks on their community.
Officials were meanwhile rushing to provide relief to some 90,000 people displaced in the hard hit northeastern city of Damaturu after last week's clashes between the Islamist group Boko Haram and security forces.
The Christmas Day bombings blamed on Boko Haram killed 40 people in several towns across Nigeria, with the deadliest an explosion outside a Catholic church near the capital Abuja as services were ending.
Nigerian leaders have been seeking to calm tensions amid fears the Christmas attacks could set off sectarian clashes in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer. The country is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
It was not clear who was behind the bomb attack at the Arabic school in Delta state, located in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.
While scores of explosions have hit Delta region in recent years, they have mainly targeted oil installations and the attacks have not been of a sectarian character.
"A locally made low-capacity explosive was thrown into an Arabic school in Sapele at 10:00 pm yesterday," said state police spokesman Charles Mouka.
"It was thrown from an unidentified moving car... Six children and one adult were wounded."
The children are between five and eight years old, he said, and had been at the school, which has about 50 students, for evening Arabic and Koranic lessons.
Christian leaders meanwhile urged authorities to take action against spiralling violence blamed on Boko Haram, as frustration rose over the state's seeming inability to stop attacks despite military crackdowns.
The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Reverend Ayo Oritsejafor, also urged followers not to take revenge but said they should defend themselves, their property and their places of worship.
"The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and property," Oritsejafor told reporters.
The attacks were "considered as a declaration of war on Christians and Nigeria as an entity", he added.
Oritsejafor called on the government and intelligence agencies to do more to prevent the attacks.
"As president of the Christian Association of Nigeria. I will not encourage Christians to (take) revenge, but Christians should protect themselves," he said.
Asked how, he added: "Any way they can. Why should anybody come and kill you in your house? Protect your place of worship. Protect your property."
Also on Wednesday, a coalition of Nigerian Pentecostal churches said they would defend themselves if authorities failed to do so, though an official stressed they were not advocating taking up arms.
"In the year 2012, if these unprovoked attacks continue, and Christians remain unprotected by the security agencies, then we will have no choice but to defend our lives and property," the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria coalition said.
Nigeria's top Muslim spiritual leader met President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday over the Christmas attacks and afterward said the violence did not signal a religious conflict.
"I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity," Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar told journalists.
"It's a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message."
Jonathan did not speak publicly after the meeting, but his national security adviser urged Christians to avoid retaliating over the Christmas bombings.
"Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation," Owoye Azazi said.
Violence had been raging even in the days before the Christmas bombings, especially in the northeastern cities of Damaturu, Potiskum and Maiduguri. Most violence attributed to Boko Haram has occurred in the northeast.
In Damaturu, an estimated 90,000 people were displaced, an emergency official said, while a police source and rights group earlier said up to 100 were feared killed.
"We advised the displaced against moving into any temporary camp for security reasons, therefore most of them are sheltering in the homes of friends and relatives in the city and neighbouring villages," said Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency.
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