29 Dec 2011

Nigerian church leaders pledge to defend themselves

9:02 pm on 29 December 2011

Church leaders in Nigeria say their members will defend themselves if the country's armed forces are unable to do so.

The statement, by a coalition of Pentecostal churches, came as tension continues to rise following a series of attacks on Christmas Day targeting churches across Nigeria by the Islamist group, Boko Haram.

The BBC reports the attacks have killed about 40 people.

The country's president, Goodluck Jonathan, has met religious leaders in an attempt to restore calm.

About 90,000 people have been displaced in clashes between the Boko Haram group and the security forces in the city of Damaturu in north-eastern Nigeria.

There were heavy gun battles in the city last week.

"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," said the leader of the Nigerian Christian Association of Nigeria, a group of Pentecostal churches.

Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden''. The group wants Sharia law imposed in Nigeria.

It carried out a suicide attack in August 2011 on the UN headquarters in Abuja, in which more than 20 people were killed.

It was also responsible for a series of bombings in Jos on Christmas Eve 2010.