Don’t let terrorists divide us on religious lines, Buhari begs Nigerians

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President Muhammadu Buhari Friday in Abuja appealed to Nigerians not to give room for terrorists to divide the country along religious lines. The president’s appeal came on the heels of the recent execution of some Christians and Muslims by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

ISWAP released a video showing the killing of 11 Christians in Nigeria. The group said it was part of its recently declared campaign to “avenge” the October deaths of its leader and spokesman in Syria. No details were given about the victims, who were all male, but ISWAP said they were “captured in the past weeks” in Nigeria’s Northeastern Borno state. The 56-second video which was produced by the group’s “news agency” Amaq was released on December 26 and analysts said; it was clearly timed to coincide with Christmas celebrations. The footage was filmed in an unidentified outdoor area. One captive was shot dead while the other 10 were pushed to the ground and beheaded.

ISIS late leader and spokesman Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir were killed in Syria in late October. Nearly two months later, on December 22, ISIS declared a new militant campaign to “avenge” their deaths and has since claimed a flurry of attacks in various countries under the banner of that campaign. One faction of Boko Haram now fights under the banner of ISWAP.

In a statement, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as saying he was saddened and shocked by the killings of innocent persons hitherto held hostage by the insurgents. He described the insurgents as callous and godless whose activities do not reflect the nature of millions of other Muslims across the world.

“I am profoundly saddened and shocked by the death of innocent hostages in the hands of remorseless, godless, callous gangs of mass murderers that have given Islam a bad name through their atrocities
“We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don’t represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world.

“As a President, the collective security of all Nigerians is my major preoccupation and the death of an innocent Christian or Muslim distresses me,” Buhari said. Shehu said the president also dismissed the terrorists as a group of barbaric persons who had no clearly defined agenda. He also accused them of pursuing evil through indiscriminate murder of innocent people in contrast to the teachings of Islam, which according to him, prohibits massacre.

According to him, the killers are agents of darkness and enemies of humanity whose mission is to cause confusion, pledging that his administration would not relent in its war against terrorism. “No true Muslim would be shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ while killing innocent people, an evil frequently condemned by the Holy Qur’an.’’

“These agents of darkness are enemies of our common humanity and they don’t spare any victim, whether they are Muslims or Christians, and therefore, we shouldn’t let them divide us and turn us against one another. The goal of these psychopaths is to cause confusion and spread distrust between Muslims and Christians, despite the fact that they aren’t representing the interest of Muslims or Islam.

“While I condemn this evil, I wish to reassure Nigerians that this administration will not lower its guards in the war against terrorism, and we will continue to intensify our efforts towards strengthening international cooperation and collaboration to break the backbone of these evil doers,” the President added. The statement said the president appealed to all Nigerians to be united against terrorists and avoid what he described as unhelpful conspiracy theories that only serve the interest of Boko Haram terrorists and ISWAP.