AP: Ill Nigerian president meets Christian leaders

April 5, 2010
By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press Writer Jon Gambrell, Associated Press Writer, April 5, 2010
LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigeria’s ill and long unseen president met briefly with Christian religious leaders Monday, still physically weak but “able to grunt out an amen,” a pastor who took part in the visit said.

Pastor Emmanuel Kure of the Throneroom Trust Ministry in Kaduna state he and three other Christian leaders met for “about five to 10 minutes” with Umaru Yar’Adua at the nation’s presidential palace in Abuja. Kure said he and the other leaders received separate requests to attend the meeting on behalf of the presidency.

The leaders led a prayer to God on the behalf of Yar’Adua, a Muslim from the country’s Islamic north.

“He wasn’t a Christian, so I don’t think he would understand what we said on his behalf,” Kure said. “He was able to grunt out an amen.”

Yar’Adua, 58, hasn’t been seen publicly since late November, when he left Nigeria for treatment in a Saudi Arabian hospital. The president’s chief physician said Yar’Adua suffered from acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart. But kidney problems and ill health long have plagued Yar’Adua, who even left the country during his 2007 electoral campaign to seek medical treatments in Germany.

“I am told that it is a great improvement from his previous state,” Kure said.

Kure declined to offer further details about Yar’Adua’s condition, saying: “We should not overheat the politics.” However, the visit comes after many criticized Yar’Adua for meeting privately with Islamic leaders Thursday without addressing the nation. During that visit, the imam of Nigeria’s national mosque said that Yar’Adua could raise his hands in prayer though he never stood up.

The visit by Christian leaders also may be an attempt by Yar’Adua’s closest allies to quiet criticisms over the religious nature of the last visit as well. The split among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, erupts into periodic violence.

Yar’Adua left the country without formally placing Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in charge, sparking a constitutional crisis in a nation that is America’s No. 3 supplier of crude oil. The National Assembly empowered Jonathan to become acting president Feb. 9. A military convoy and an ambulance apparently swept Yar’Adua back into the presidential palace Feb. 24, though his Christian vice president remained in control of the nation.

The nation’s ruling People’s Democratic Party rotates its presidential candidates among the two faiths, though democracy only has existed for a decade’s time in a nation once ruled by coup and military dictators.

Yar’Adua can resume control of the presidency by notifying the National Assembly, but so far hasn’t. Analysts have suggested those surrounding Yar’Adua brought the ailing leader back to the country to keep a check on Jonathan’s ambitions even if he’s not strong enough to lead.

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BREAKING NEWS: Internet video proclaims Muslims must rise up in Nigeria

March 18, 2010
By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press Writer Jon Gambrell, Associated Press Writer Tue Mar 16, 2:59 pm ET

LAGOS, Nigeria – A video posted on a militant Web site calls for Muslims in Nigeria to use “the sword and the spear” to rise up against Christians in Africa’s most populous nation, according to a translation released Tuesday by a U.S. group that monitors militant sites.

The video on the Ansar al-Mujahideen forum, a Web site sympathetic to al-Qaida, comes in the wake of a series of religious massacres and riots in central Nigeria.

The video shows television news footage and graphic images of those killed as a narrator tells viewers “the solution is jihad in the cause of Allah,” according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“Negotiations, dialogues and protests will not stop the advancement of the enemies and their massacres,” the narrator says. “Nothing will stop them but the sword and the spear.”

The narrator also says the “crusader West” is interested in Nigeria for its abundant oil reserves. He refers to President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim from northern Nigeria, as a “tyrant” who allowed the killing of a sect leader whose group’s attacks on police stations and rioting left more than 700 people dead in July.

Nigeria’s military ended fighting led by the group, known as Boko Haram, after seizing its leader. The group’s name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language. The group’s leader was later killed, and the army and police gave differing accounts of his capture that suggested that he may have died while in police custody.

The release of the 10-minute video comes after more than 200 people — mostly Christians — died last week in massacres in villages outside of the central Nigerian city of Jos. More than 300 people — mostly Muslims — died in January during rioting in the same region.

Nigeria, a country of 150 million people, is split almost evenly between Christians in its south and Muslim in its north. However, the nation has yet to see an al-Qaida-inspired terror group take hold inside its borders — despite others beginning to thrive in West Africa.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said nothing would stop Nigeria’s ethnic violence except splitting the nation into Muslim and Christian states, Libya’s official news agency reported Tuesday. Gadhafi told a group of African student leaders in Tripoli that the violence in Nigeria is a “deep-rooted conflict of a religious nature” that requires a radical solution.

In May 2003, Osama bin Laden purportedly urged Muslims in the country to rise up against one of the “regimes who are slaves of America.”

Security forces claimed to break up such a linked terror cell in November 2007. Last year, a 23-year-old Nigerian who later claimed ties to al-Qaida attempted to detonate an explosive abroad a Christmas Day flight headed via Amsterdam to Detroit.

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