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Boko Haram militants threaten further attacks on media

The Abuja offices of
The Abuja offices of "ThisDay" newspaper after the suicide car bomb attack

Tom Saater/DEMOTIX

Less than a week after bomb attacks on media houses killed at least eight in Abuja and Kaduna, the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram has released a video claiming responsibility and threatening further attacks against media groups, reports Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

In the video posted on YouTube on 1 May, Boko Haram threatened attacks against popular news outlets that include the Voice of America, Radio France and the "Guardian", for committing crimes against Islam, says MRA.

A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden car drove into the offices of "ThisDay" newspaper in Abuja on 26 April, report MRA, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and other IFEX members.

IPI says five employees were killed. CPJ says five media support workers also sustained injuries, and that the paper's production had to be stopped as the blast had damaged the printing press.

At about the same time in the northern city of Kaduna, a bomb was thrown at a building housing the offices of "ThisDay", "The Sun" and "The Moment", killing at least three, says IPI.

In the nearly 18-minute video that shows the suicide bombing in Abuja, Boko Haram said that "ThisDay" newspaper was attacked for suggesting in 2002 that the Prophet Mohammed would have approved of the Miss World beauty pageant being held in Abuja, reports the BBC.

Back then, deadly riots were sparked after "ThisDay" published the article considered blasphemous.

"We attacked 'ThisDay' because we will never forget or forgive anyone who abused our prophet," the video says.

The video went on to say its fighters would target several other Nigerian newspapers and some foreign broadcasters, and warned others that they were "on the verge of joining this list if they are not careful," reports the BBC.

According to CPJ, "ThisDay" is largely supportive of President Goodluck Jonathan's government. CPJ says the newspaper had received a warning in January after reporting on the activities of Boko Haram. The threat was reported to Nigerian security agencies while the paper applied new security measures for staff and visitors, including locking the front entrance.

In March, Boko Haram threatened attacks against three newspapers - "Vanguard", "Tribune" and "National Accord" - accusing them of reporting favourable to the Nigerian government, reports CPJ.

MRA expressed concern at the "apparent helplessness" of the federal government and law enforcement and security agencies "in the face of this relentless onslaught," and called on them "to live up to [their] primary responsibility of ensuring the security and welfare of the people."

Boko Haram, which translates to "Western education is forbidden," has also claimed responsibility for numerous other fatal shootings and bombings in Nigeria: more than 900 civilians have been killed by the group since July 2009, says Human Rights Watch.

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