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Boko Haram tells Christians to leave

03 January 2012, 09:24 Habiba Salihu

Nigeria - Radical Islamist group Boko Haram issued an ultimatum on Monday, telling southern Christians living in the north to leave within three days or face further violence.

Aminu Magada, a source close to the sect, told dpa that Boko Haram spokesperson Abu Qaga issued an e-mail statement to some media institutions.

The statement said southern Christians living in the north, particularly those in the states of Borno and Yobe, should leave immediately.

It comes after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in four northern states, where violence between ethnic groups has also flared in recent days.

Southerners account for more than 30% of the 18 million Nigerians living in the north of the country.

Many of them work in the commercial and retail sectors.

Although most Nigerian Christians come from southern states, many of those who moved to the north have since had families who converted to Islam.

In the last two weeks more than 90 000 people are believed to have fled the north after increased attacks by Boko Haram on the region.

The group claimed responsibility for co-ordinated bomb blasts at churches on Christmas Day that killed at least 30 people, and for the August bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja, killing 25 people.

Jonathan is in the process of setting up an anti-terrorism unit, but his efforts to quash the sect have come under fire from commentators, many of whom fear that an attempt to divide the country along geographical and religious lines could spark civil unrest like that seen during the 1967-70 civil war.

The government has yet to react to Monday's ultimatum.


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