The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said on Friday he was saddened and shocked over the execution of 11 hostages by the Islamic State West Africa Province.
The Christmas Day executions claimed the lives of 10 Christians and one Muslim. ISWAP set two other Muslims free, but said the killings were carried out to avenge the death of their leaders Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir in Iraq and Syria respectively.
Buhari, who appealed to Nigerians not to allow terrorists to divide them along religious lines, condemned the executions. Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Mr Garba Shehu.
“I am profoundly saddened and shocked by the death of innocent hostages at 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 President, the collective security of all Nigerians is my major preoccupation and the death of an innocent Christian or Muslim distresses me.”
He noted that the terrorists’ only known agenda was the killing of innocent citizens, “contrary to the teachings of Islam, which prohibits massacre”.
He added, “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; therefore, we shouldn’t let them divide us and turn us against one another. “The goal of these sycophants 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.”
Buhari advised Nigerians against relying on “conspiracy theories” that would help Boko Haram and ISWAP to promote their aim of mass killings. In a statement, ISWAP, who justified the killings, said, “We killed them as a revenge for the killing of our leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir in Iraq and Syria.”
The executions came just a day after Boko Haram insurgents murdered seven villagers in a Christian community close to Chibok in Borno State. The United Nations had reacted to the latest killings, expressing “deepest condolences to the families of the victims and reiterates the solidarity of the United Nations with the people and Government of Nigeria.”