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New Islamist group emerges in Nigeria, claims ‘different’ understanding of Jihad

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A new Islamic group in Nigeria has pledged to defend the interests of Muslims in Africa, claiming a different understanding of Jihad and vowing to avenge the killing of Muslims, the All Africa news website reported on Sunday.

The group, named Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina fi Biladin Sudan, (Supporters of Islam in the Land of Sudan) has said in a recent video posted on the internet that does not target non-Muslims except “in self-defense or if they attack Muslims like the cases we have in Jos.” It was referring to violence in the restive central Nigerian city.

Headed by a man that goes by the pseudonym Abu Usamatul Ansar, the new group stated that their understanding of Jihad in Islam is different from that of any other group, the website reported.

In the video, which was originally made in Arabic and translated into English, Ansar said that his group considers anybody that accepts the Muslim belief of the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet “must not be killed unless he/she has committed an act that is punishable by death as stated in the holy Quran,” according to the report.

“Islam forbids killing of innocent people including non-Muslims. This is our belief and we stand for it,” Ansar said.

Ansar said the group will not target or kill any security personnel in the name of Jihad but they will protect the interest of Muslims and Islam in Africa. In the context of holy war, Jihad refers to the use of violence against individuals or governments deemed to be enemies of Islam. The term is increasingly attributed to extremist Islamic groups.

Ansar’s group expects the Nigerian government to allow them to freely practice their religion and to always serve justice to the people, the report stated.

Ansar said attacks on Muslims in Jos in the aftermath of the Nigerian presidential election violence in April last year were unacceptable to the group.

In March, at least 10 people were killed after a Catholic church was targeted by suicide car bombers in Jos. No group claimed responsibility for the bombing, although Islamist militant group Boko Haram said it was behind a similar attack on a church last month.

Ansar said the “rampant massacre of Muslims in Nigeria will no longer be tolerated and that they will never attack any religion or government institution that didn’t attack them and their religion,” the report stated.

Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to reinstate an ancient Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria that would impose stricter Sharia (Islamic) law, has been blamed for hundreds of killings in bomb or gun attacks over the past two years.

Such attacks on Christians seem aimed at igniting sectarian strife in a country of 160 million split about evenly between Muslims and Christians, according to BBC figures.

In response to such sectarian strife, Ansar emphasized that the Prophet Muhammad had lived with non-Muslims and even Jews but on the condition that they would not do anything to harm them.

But Ansar also said that his new group will attack any group or religion that attacks Islam and Muslims, All Africa reported.

(Written by Eman El-Shenawi)