The U.S. has promised to help Nigeria hunt down the terrorists who killed at least 39 people on Christmas Day, most of them at a church.
“We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement Monday.
For the second Christmas in a row, Islamic group Boko Haram, which aims to install Sharia law in Africa’s most populous nation, orchestrated fatal attacks.
“There will never be peace until our demands are met,” a spokesman for the militant sect was quoted in a local newspaper. “We want full implementation of the Sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended.”
Sunday’s spate of violence claimed 35 victims who were leaving St. Theresa Catholic Church, near the capital of Abuja. Some 52 other people were injured.
A police officer was also killed when a gunman opened fire near a church in the country’s central region. In a third attack, a suicide bomber killed three outside the state headquarters of the secret police.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is Christian, called the church bombing an “ugly incident.”
“There is no reason for these kind of dastardly acts,” he said. “It’s one of the burdens as a nation we have to carry. We believe it will not last forever.”
Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is sacrilege” in the local language, is responsible for killing at least 504 people this year, according to The Associated Press.
Pope Benedict condemned the holiday bloodshed on Monday.
“In this moment, I want to repeat once again with force: Violence is a path that leads only to pain, destruction and death. Respect, reconciliation and love are the only path to peace,” he said.
With News Wire Services