By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christian farming communities reportedly faced new attacks and abductions on Christmas Eve by suspected Islamic Fulani fighters who recently killed dozens of Christians.
Among those kidnapped Thursday was Jumai Luka, the wife of Reverend Luka Shaho of the Assemblies of God Church in Ungwan Waziri in Kaduna state, rights investigators said. He was abducted in Kaduna's Chikun Local Government Area (LGA) by armed men who had beaten her husband "mercilessly," according to Christians familiar with the case.
The kidnapping followed the reported December 21 abduction of Reverend Thomas James of Godiya Baptist Church Gwazunu.
He was taken in a deadly attack by over 100 well-armed men on the Gwazunu community in Gwagwada in Chikun LGA region, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"The militia went on to attack the Gbaja Katarma community, where eight people were killed, and four reportedly sustained gunshot injuries," CSW stressed. The group added that villages fled to the Sarkin Pawa community in neighboring Niger states as attacks continued and assistance was not forthcoming.
Earlier on December 19, Reverend Luka Dani of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) was abducted following an attack on the Galumi community in Gwagwada, investigators said. Several villagers had reportedly been kidnapped from Kugosi and surrounding communities a week before this attack. "Reverend Dani was eventually released on December 23 and has now left the area," CSW added in a statement to Worthy News.
Separately on December 17, some ten people were killed, and 18 homes were torched by Fulani fighters in Gora Gan village in Kaduna's Zangon Kataf LGA area. Five of the victims were from the same family, CSW said.
VIOLATING PEACE ACCORD
The attack was the latest violation of a peace accord, the group noted. "The most infamous breach were the murders on November 15 of the District Head of Ma'Zaki, Mr. Haruna Kuye and his son Destiny, 9. Mr. Kuye's wife and daughter survived the attack despite suffering severe injuries."
The kidnappings and violence overshadowed the cheer over the widely published recent release of 300 abducted schoolboys by Islamic militants. Local advocacy campaigners warned regional authorities that a local secondary school in the area was used as a base by armed men. They said the gunmen were suspected of attacking the local Gora Gan community killing a youth and forcing residents "to flee the area to nearby villages for their safety."
Elsewhere, on December 17, armed men riding motorcycles attacked Kujeni Tudu in Kajuru LGA are in Kaduna, killing Bala Umaru, 75, and looting the village, CSW recalled.
"According to the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU)" group, "four people went missing after the attack. They were named Dada Bulus, 55; Peter Tanko, 43; Buba Yakubu, 51; and Emma Dauda, 38."
CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "We offer our condolences to those who lost loved ones in this month's attacks in Kaduna state. And our thoughts are with those whose family members are still missing or injured." Thomas stressed that the "urgent and deteriorating situation in Kaduna must not be forgotten, nor must the religious element to these attacks be brushed aside."
Outside the state, reports emerged of the death of Pastor Kabiru Babangida. A convert to Christianity, he worked in remote villages in the northwestern states of Kebbi and Niger. The pastor was abducted and hacked to death by assailants who had initially demanded 4 million ($10,500) in ransom before raising the amount to N10 million ($26,300) then switching off their phones, CSW said.
Villagers eventually found his bound and mutilated corpse, according to rights investigators. "The pastor is survived by his wife and two children, as well as by his parents and siblings who had disowned him due to his conversion," CSW stressed. CSW asked authorities to develop a security plan considering "the different dimensions to this security crisis," including widely available arms and signs that ongoing violence spreads.
Attacks against believers are also occurring in the south of the country with "increasing frequency," Christians said. On December 2, Fulani fighters reportedly raided a prayer retreat of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) near Abeokuta in Ogun state, stealing cash, phones, and other valuables from worshipers. "Several pastors and worshipers were attacked with machetes, and three women were abducted for ransom, including the wife of a senior pastor," CSW explained.
It also reported attacks against Muslim farming communities, especially in the northwest, "where armed bandits of Fulani ethnicity largely target Hausa Muslim farming communities." Mervyn Thomas told Worthy News that "More must be done to address Nigeria's security vacuum. To stem the staggering loss of life across the nation, and to assist, compensate, and rehabilitate victims of violence."
He said there was "a pressing need for an overhaul of the entire security structure," including intelligence gathering. He added that "coordinating action between the security services, and equipping troops in a manner commensurate with terrain and challenges" was also needed. "A holistic security strategy must be formulated as a matter of urgency, given the increasing links between what may have initially appeared to be disparate sources of violence."
Rights groups say the attacks are part of a broader campaign by Islamic extremists. The militants target mainly Christians in several states of Nigeria, where they want to impose Islamic rule. Advocacy group Open Doors reported that in some northern states, "increasing numbers of Christians are dressing like Muslims to make their faith less obvious and reduce the chances of attack."
Young Christians in these states are "frequently denied access to higher education. And Christians have been asked to give up their faith to obtain work," Open Doors added. It said that "applications for permits to build churches are ignored" by authorities amid ongoing Islamic attacks.