Fulani herdsmen on Sunday (May 23) killed 14 Christians in a village near Jos, Plateau state and eight others in another village, sources said.
Herdsmen attacked Kwi village, Riyom County, near Jos, at about 11 p.m., said area resident Solomon Mandiks, a Christian rights activist.
“Fourteen Christians were butchered to death, including children,” Mandiks told Morning Star News in a text message. “Eight members of one family have all been killed. This is beside an additional six other Christians killed by the herdsmen in the village.”
Earlier that night in Dong village, Jos North County, armed herdsmen attacking at 8 p.m. killed eight Christians, area residents said. Asabe Samuel, 60-year-old member of the local Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation, said in an interview at her home that a large number of herdsmen invaded as residents were about to go to sleep.
“I was by the central area of the village, which has shops and serves as a market, when I heard Fulani gunmen shooting around my house,” Samuel told Morning Star News. “This forced us to run to hide.”
As the sounds of gunshot were coming from the direction of her house, others advised her not to return home, she said.
“I still rushed to my house, and just as I was getting closer to my house, I found that one Istifanus Shehu, 40, a member of COCIN [Church of Christ in Nations] who has had mental health challenges, was shot dead, and his corpse was lying beside my house,” Samuel said. “We heard the attackers retreating and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar [Allah is greater].’ The herdsmen were also communicating with themselves in the Fulani language.”
After they retreated, residents found eight Christians were killed in attacks on four houses, she said. Besides Shehu, she identified those slain as Ruth Adamu, 20, an ECWA member; Naomi Adamu, 40, of the ECWA; Friday Danladi Riya, 22, of the ECWA; Awuki Matthew, 28, Catholic; Gospel Matthew, 4, Catholic; PraiseGod Matthew, 2, Catholic; and one identified only as Chinyere of St. Jude’s Anglican Church.
“Awuki Matthew was killed alongside her two daughters, Gospel Matthew and PraiseGod Matthew, leaving behind her husband, who’s blind,” she said. “Who will care for this blind man, and how will he cope with life without his wife and children?”
Monday Auta, an ECWA member and her neighbor, was shot in his shoulder and was receiving hospital treatment, she said, adding that Ruth Adamu and daughter Naomi Adamu were her neighbors and members of her ECWA church.
The late Shehu’s sister, Jummai Shehu, a 32-year-old COCIN member, said her brother was visiting the house of Samuel, where they once lived.
“The armed Fulani herdsmen spotted him and shot him dead,” she said, weeping. “I feel very sad about the way my brother was killed in cold blood. Why must we live in fear every day, not knowing the evil that awaits us as Christians in this country?”
The pastor of the ECWA church in Dong, Jonathan Kyoomnom Bala, said police did not show up until 10 a.m. the next day.
“Some government officials came also this morning only at 10 a.m.,” Pastor Bala told Morning Star News. “These herdsmen carried out the attack on us for about 40 minutes and left without intervention from soldiers or the police.”
Security agencies’ lack of action was concerning, he said.
“While the attack was going on, I phoned one of the security agents, and he told me they were doing something about it, but they did nothing,” Pastor Bala said. “It’s traumatic to witness such deadly incidents of this nature.
“Last week the herdsmen were here in the community roaming around without restraint by security agents stationed around the community, and yet, even in the presence of soldiers and police personnel, the attackers invaded the community and embarked on a killing spree. And some of the attackers are known to be terrorists who have been brought in from other countries to collaborate with the herdsmen to attack Christians.”
As a pastor, he said, he has wondered why the violence goes unchecked.
“Throughout last night I couldn’t sleep because members I minister to were killed in gruesome manner, and for not committing any crimes except being Christians,” Pastor Bala told Morning Star News. “Has it now become a crime to profess Jesus Christ?”
Many Christians have been displaced as a result of this attack, adversely affecting ministry there, he said.
“What the Nigerian government should note is that when the people have lost faith in security agencies and are forced to resort to self-help to defend themselves, there’ll be anarchy in the land,” he said.
The pastor listed churches affected by herdsmen attacks in the area as the ECWA, COCIN, Roman Catholic, Anglican Communion, Baptist Church, Assemblies of God Church, Living Faith Church, and The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
Prior attacks in Plateau state in April took the lives of at least 15 other Christians.
Herdsmen on April 30 attacked Ta-Hoss village, Riyom County, killing Emmanuel Joshua, a 32-year-old Christian, rights advocate Mandiks said.
Irmiya James, a leader of the Christian community in the village, told Mandiks that he received a distress call at 3 p.m. that Fulani had shot dead a Christian on Tahoss-Ganawuri Road.
“On getting to the scene, we found Mr. Emmanuel Joshua in a pool of blood, and his motorcycle was taken away by the Fulani assailants,” James told Mandiks.
Fulani militia on April 30 attacked Sopp village, Riyom County, wounding seven people while hundreds of people already displaced from Kak village in 2012 were forced to flee again from their camp for Internally Displaced Persons, Mandiks said.
Joshua Choji, a Christian receiving treatment at Vom Christian Hospital, told Mandiks that he and others went to clear farmlands when 50 Fulani herdsmen emerged from a nearby stream.
“All I can remember is that four of the herdsmen attacked me, while others also attacked other members of our community,” Choji told Mandiks. “We cried out for help, but none came for our rescue. I was battered on my head and also sustained a fracture on my left hand.”
Other Christians injured were John Makama, Danladi Dazam, Chuwang Kara, Alpha Yakubu, Daniel Danbwarang and Ibrahim Jatau, Mandiks said.
In predominantly Christian Baten village, Riyom County, herdsmen attacked on April 25 at about 8 p.m., said area resident Pam Choji.
“We had received information that Fulani militias would be coming to invade our village, Baten,” Choji said. “That made us intensify vigilance and, graciously, no one was hurt when the armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked us.”
Choji said the half-hour attack forced area residents to flee their homes.
In Wereng village, Riyom County, herdsmen attacked on April 15, killing six Christians and sending two others for hospital treatment, said Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, director of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN). He identified those slain as Chuwang Williams, 29; Bulus Danbom, 41; Peter Williams, 39; Dung Gyang, 60; Dachung Gara, 44; and Davou Dachung, 45. Injured were Davou Jatau and Gyang Jatau.
Residents in nearby Kuru village, Jos South County, said herdsmen attacked on April 9, killing eight Christians.
Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List report. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.
Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990. In this year’s World Watch List list of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
The APPG report noted that tribal loyalties cannot be overlooked.
“In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, was elected president of Nigeria,” the group reported. “He has done virtually nothing to address the behavior of his fellow tribesmen in the Middle Belt and in the south of the country.”
The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.
In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”
On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.
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