Muslim Fanatics in Nigeria Burn Down 10 Churches

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Undisclosed number of Christians killed in northern town of Makarfi.

by Obed Minchakpu

KADUNA, Nigeria, April 8 (Compass) -- Muslim fanatics burned down 10 Christian churches in the town of Makarfi in the northern state of Kaduna, Nigeria, on Saturday. Claims that a mentally retarded Christian teenager desecrated the Quran, the Muslim holy book, apparently incited the attack.

An undisclosed number of Christians were reported killed in the incident, which also resulted in the displacement of hundreds of other Christians from the town. These have now taken refuge in the city of Kaduna.

Bodies of the dead Christians from Makarfi were brought to police stations in Kaduna City on Sunday, the day after the attack. This Compass correspondent visited the Kakuri and Sabo Tasha police stations and saw corpses piled in trucks to be taken away for mass burial by the police.

Police prevented people there from getting close to the trucks bearing the dead bodies.

At a press conference in Kaduna on Monday, Dr. Sam Kujiyat, vice-chairman of the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), confirmed the killings in Makarfi and the destruction of the 10 churches.

“We are still receiving reports from affected churches on this incident and would inform you adequately on the issue once the security situation there improves,” Kujiyat told journalists.

“Islamic terrorists hiding under the cover of religion have invaded the state and are now unleashing terror on Christians over stupid reasons,” he said.

“The situation we are witnessing today is the emergence of a dangerous trend in which religious sentiment is being used as a cover to victimize Christians.

“Having observed closely the trend and the pattern of the attacks CAN has only one option and that is to alert the public, through the mass media, of the dangers and fears these incidents evoke in the minds and hearts of Christians in the state.”

During the press conference, CAN leaders demanded the arrests and prosecution of the Muslim fanatics that carried out the attacks on Christians. They also requested provision from the Kaduna state government to rebuild all the burned churches.

“It is our conclusion that Muslim leaders are deliberately using fanatics in the name of Islam to engage in periodic attacks on Christians with the sole aim to intimidate, terrorize and force Christians into submission and to denounce their faith,” Kujiyat concluded.

Malam Yusuf Abuakar, a Muslim residing in Makarfi, witnessed the attack on Christians. Abuakar described the incident to Compass at police headquarters in Kaduna on Monday, April 5.

“A teenager, who is said be mentally retarded, went into an Islamic school, took a copy of the Quran from one of the students and tore it,” Abuakar said. “This provoked the students and Muslims nearby, who then pounced on the teenager, beating him mercilessly.”

Abubakar explained that the teenager’s mother came to his rescue and took him to a nearby police station. But the Muslims pursued the pair to the police station and set it ablaze.

The mob then proceeded to burn down the 10 churches.

Kaduna Deputy Governor Stephen Shekari said in a statewide radio and television broadcast on Sunday night that the situation in Makarfi had been brought under control.

Kaduna State Police Commissioner Muhammed Yusuf, a Muslim, spoke to journalists on April 6 about the Makarfi attacks, which he blamed on “mischievous people (who are) fomenting trouble in the area.”

“So far, we have arrested five people. We are still making arrests,” Yusuf said. “It was a confused situation. The person who was being pursued (the teenager) is still in coma.”