Jihad Attacks on Non-Muslims in Nigeria Claim Thousands of Lives

Friday, April 11, 2003

April 11, 2003 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- Violence in predominantly Christian Plateau State in Nigeria has continued unabated since the first major outbreak in Jos, in 2001 when over 2,000 people are thought to have died in orchestrated inter religious violence.

Non-Muslim settlements now suffer attacks on an almost weekly basis in what appears to be part of a deliberate attempt to alter the ethno-religious make up of the state in order to facilitate the institution of Shari'ah Law in this key state in the Middle Belt.

Armed Muslims attacked the village of Fobur in Langtang at 2am on April 4, killing a woman and burning several houses. The group attacked again the following day and is thought to have gone on to raid the village of Zambwar where 30 homes were set on fire. On April 7 it was reported that Wereng village near the Vom suburb of the State Capital Jos had been attacked by armed insurgents.

At least 22 villagers were killed, over 16 were injured and 28 are said to be missing following an attack on the town of Kadarko in neighboring Wase Local Governemnt Area (LGA) on March 18 by armed Hausa Fulani Muslims.

Survivors of the attack on Kadarko described how they were woken at 5am by shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' and 'we are going to finish off the infidels'. The attackers used such sophisticated weaponry that members of the mobile police unit assigned to the area to curb the violence was obliged to flee after running out of ammunition. In a worrying development, sources in Kadarko reported that two attackers killed by the Mobile Police had ID cards identifying them as serving military men. Worse still, a police officer wounded during the violence confirmed an armored vehicle assigned to protect the area not only joined in the attack on them but also turned its guns on police and soldiers who tried to defend them.

The attackers are described as heavily armed, numbering up to 2,000 and wearing the white headbands favoured by Jihadists. In an indication of the international dimensions of the violence, they are accompanied by militants from the republics of Chad and Niger.

The recent intensification of violence in the Wase and Langtang areas occurred in the aftermath of vehement protests by Hausa Fulani Muslims against plans by the state government to create a new LGA with the town of Kadarko as its headquarters. In July 2002 Muslims attempted to ethnically cleanse the predominantly Christian Taroh tribe from Wase LGA, killing over 5000 people, displacing at least 100,000 and destroying over 80 Christian villages in Wase LGA. Kadarko is the largest of only three remaining Christian inhabited settlements in the area.

Religious violence has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people since it erupted in 1999.

The sporadic nature of the attacks around Plateau State mean that non-Muslim communities are in a constant state of anxiety and readiness. One Plateau resident spoke of people having to sleep "with one eye open" and another added "the thing is you cannot say where and who will be next".

There is growing fear that violence in the area will intensify with the commencement of the electoral process on April 12. The violence would be aimed at preventing non- Muslims from casting their vote, thereby facilitating the election of candidates sympathetic to an Islamist agenda.

Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive, said: "We are deeply disturbed by the continuing violence in Plateau State and by allegations that state and federal security forces assigned to quell the violence may instead have been a party to it. We urge the state government to conduct an enquiry into the behaviour of the security forces during the Kadarko attack and to ensure that the forthcoming elections are conducted peacefully and fairly."

For more information, or pictures of the aftermath of the violence or a report on recent fact-finding visits to Nigeria, contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8949 0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email richard.chilvers@csw.org.uk or go to www.csw.org.uk