By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- A female suicide bomber has attacked a crowded evangelical Christian church service in northeast Nigeria, killing at least six people, witnesses and officials said Sunday, July 5.
Police was seen rushing to the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Potiskum, the largest city in northeastern Yobe state. One congregant, who was too scared to give her name, told reporters the blast came from a woman who was in the congregation.
"People were just going to the church when the bomber entered, otherwise the casualty figure would have been higher," said Red Cross official Hassan Alhaji Muhammad, who visited the scene, in published remarks.
The woman blew herself up following several bombings and shootings blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that has killed some 200 people in the past week. It also added to concerns over mainly Christian Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants last year amid fresh reports that they have been brainwashed in carrying out attacks and to begin fighting for the Islamist group.
Many have allegedly already carried out public beatings and even killings. Women who claim they lived in the same camps as some of the 219 girls who were taken from their school in the town of Chibok last April told the British Broadcastiong Corporation (BBC) last week that many are now administering punishments on behalf of Boko Haram.
Those punishments include flogging young girls who were unable to recite from the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslimns, or slitting the throats of captured men. One witness claimed to have seen the Chibok girls carrying guns.
While these claims have not been independently verified, human rights organisation Amnesty International says their research also indicates that some girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been trained to fight.
It was unclear whether Sunday's attack was carried out by one of these or another captured girl or woman. Among others killed in recent days were nearly 100 men and boys praying in a mosque.
Boko Haram took control of a large swath of northeast Nigeria last year and declared an Islamic caliphate, threatening those deemed as
a threat to its ambition to spread its radical views on Islam, including critical Muslims.
It has especially ordered Christians to leave northern areas of Nigeria.
At least 13,000 people are believed to have died in the 6-year-old Islamic uprising that also has driven 1.5 million people from their homes, some across borders.
As it stepped up cross-border attacks, Nigeria and its neighbors formed a multinational army that this year drove them out of towns and villages, but that has done little to halt Boko Haram.
Observers say the group apparently responds to an Islamic State group directive to increase attacks in the what Muslims view as the holy month of Ramadan.
New Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is due to visit his counterpart in Cameroon after Ramadan and meets US President Barack Obama on July 20, when the fight against Boko Haram is likely to be high on the agenda, news reports said.
He has already condemned the recent attacks as barbaric and said they underscore the need for an expanded multinational army to crush the extremists.