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Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 50 people in north-central Nigeria – and called on the country’s Christians to convert to Islam. Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa issued a statement that the Islamist group carried out the attacks on more than a dozen villages on the weekend of June 30-July 1 and said it will continue to attack the country’s Christians. According to the statement: “Christians in Nigeria should accept Islam, that is true religion, or they will never have peace.” Violence in Plateau state last weekend was blamed on members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani ethnic group, which attacked Christian tribes in the region in March 2010 due to political and social tensions. According to a Red Cross statement issued on July 1, aid workers counted 58 dead – but other estimates place the number higher. Press Trust of India reporters stationed in the capital Abuja stated that 135 people were killed. In the statement Boko Haram thanked God for the massacre: “We praise God in this war for Prophet Mohammed, we thank Allah for the successful attack in... [the] Plateau state on Christians and security men”. Nigeria’s bishops have repeatedly called for Christians not to retaliate – but following the bombing of three churches on June 17, Muslim shops were targeted by Christians.