By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christians, including children, have been kidnapped and one person was killed and a church destroyed in the latest attacks by Muslim fighters in north-central Nigeria, an advocacy group said Wednesday.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said “several secondary school students were abducted” in Monday’s violence hitting the Damba-Kasaya Community in the Chikun Local Government Area of Nigeria’s Kaduna State.
CSW cited local reports as saying that many “Fulani” fighters on motorcycles arrived early Monday in the area. “They invaded the Prince Academy secondary school, where they abducted a teacher identified by Nigerian media as Christiana Madugu and at least four final year students.”
The students were reportedly preparing for their Junior Secondary School examination when the attack happened. Schools in Kaduna recently reopened to enable secondary school examinations. The kidnapped children were Happy Odoji, 14, Miracle Danjuma, 13, her sister Favour Danjuma, 9, who was abducted from her home, and Ezra Bako, 15, CSW confirmed.
The kidnappers contacted the family of the Danjuma sisters using the teacher’s telephone to confirm they had their children, but made no further demands, Christians said.
Besides, gunmen broke into the Aminchi Baptist Church, which they set ablaze after destroying musical instruments and the public address system. They also abducted other villagers, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
The Nigerian military briefly clashed with assailants but reportedly withdrew for unknown reasons, witnesses said. “Unaware of this, villagers continued to pursue the attackers, who opened fire on them, killing a man later identified as Benjamin Auta. He leaves behind a wife and baby,” CSW added.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told Worthy News that the “situation in southern Kaduna is pressing and increasingly desperate.”
He added: “We extend our condolences to the family of Mr. Auta, and our prayers are with those who anxiously await the safe return of their loved ones.”
Those involved in the attacks were reportedly part of the feared Fulani militia (also known as Fulani herders) a nomadic, predominantly Muslim tribe. In 2014 the militia was named the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index database.
Fulani militia are targeting non-Muslims particularly Christians, according to rights investigators. “They’re attacking entire communities that are most isolated and individuals at their most vulnerable, including men and women working in their fields”, CSW added in a recent assessment.
The local Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) advocacy group says the area has suffered series of militia attacks, with several people either kidnapped for ransom or killed.
The current campaign of attacks targeting communities in southern Kaduna began in January and continued despite 24-hour coronavirus lockdowns in several areas.
Rights investigators estimate that at least 500 people were killed from January to June. Some 50,000 people from 109 communities have been displaced or are unable to farm and harvest their produce, according to several estimates. In some communities, Christians are reportedly forced to pay “protection” money to invaders to get to their farms.
In published remarks, SOKAPU’s President Jonathan Asake warned of a “humanitarian crisis” unfolding in southern Kaduna. Asake expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in camps for internally displaced persons. He cited a shortage of food, potable water, medicine, beddings, and other necessities.
“Hunger is staring at these victims in the face and we are calling on the federal and Kaduna state governments to urgently intervene in this crisis.”
Asake also condemned the closure of some 33 schools in the region “either as a result of incessant invasions or abductions for ransom.”
CSW’s Thomas said his group had urged the Nigerian government to “address the violence and insecurity in an earnest and unbiased manner.” It was also crucial to “provide humanitarian assistance for the burgeoning number of displaced people and to guarantee their safe return to their homes and lands,” he added.
Thomas urged the European Union, Britain, and the United States to pressure the Kaduna state and federal governments to provide for those forced to flee their homes. He suggested that thousands of Christians continue to rely on non-governmental-organizations and church donations “for survival” in the African nation.
CSW demands more “resources towards assisting them as a matter of urgency.”