By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ABUJA (Worthy News) - Fulani herdsmen and other suspected Islamic attackers killed scores of Christians and abducted a priest and some 100 other people in Nigeria’s troubled Kaduna state, several sources confirmed Monday.
The troubles began last Thursday, March 24, when Fulani herdsman murdered about 50 Christians, authorities and residents said. They also abducted Catholic priest Felix Fidson Zakari of St. Ann’s Catholic Church at gunpoint from Zangon Tama village along with about 100 others, area residents said.
The residents and a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Zaria requested prayer for the abducted priest and other hostages. These late-night attacks targeted 10 predominantly Christian communities of Giwa County, where herders and others also torched a church building, residents said.
“They also burned houses, stores, and killed animals,” Morning Star News agency quoted villager Nuhu Musa as saying. “These attacks continued and lasted up to the morning of Friday, March by25. They didn’t allow even the dead bodies to be buried, as they shot at mourners and those who returned to the villages to conduct funerals for those killed.”
Women and children were among those killed, Musa added. The burned church building was located in Zangon Tama village, Worthy News learned from several sources.
Samuel Aruwan, the commissioner in Kaduna state’s Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, said the assailants attacked the villages of Dillalai, Barebari, Dokan Alhaji Ya’u, Durumi, Kaya, and Fatika.
The latest incident came barely a week after at least 34 Christians were killed by heavily armed gunmen. Though authorities blamed the attacks on criminal gangs, also known locally as “bandits,” Christians in the region expressed concerns about rising Islamic extremism.
News also emerged Monday that Fulani Herdsmen killed three Christians in Benue state early Wednesday, March 23, after more than 20 people were reportedly murdered in mainly Christian areas of the state earlier this month.
Residents of predominantly Christian Yoli village in Katsina-Ala County said the Fulani attacked at about 2 a.m. and wounded a dozen people, forcing many to flee their homes.
Residents said the three Christians slain were members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church (NKST in Nigeria) in the village.
The killings follow similar herdsmen attacks this month in Benue state. In Guma County, herders on March 10-12 attacked Ahentse village, killing five Christians on March 12, Christian sources said.
On March 10 in Iye village, herdsmen reportedly killed eight Christians, and on the same day in Udeyen village, six more were killed, Morning Star News quoted area residents as saying.
Before the killings, residents said they received threatening letters from the herdsmen demanding that they leave the villages or be killed. Caleb Aba, Guma council chairman, cited a lower figure, saying eight Christians were killed in attacks on Iye and Udeyen.
“The attacks of Thursday, 10 March, were carried out late at night while the villagers were sleeping,” Aba said. “In both attacks, eight Christians were killed by the herdsmen.”
He identified some of the slain as Clement Tortiv, Enoch Utim, Terkimbi Kutaer, Mtaaega Tyogbea, and Aondoaver Swende, and the wounded as Sunday Gaga and Torkwase Igbira.
Paul Hemba, a Benue state government spokesman, said six Christians were killed in Iye. Two were slain in Udeyen. The differences in the given death toll numbers could not immediately be reconciled.
However, Benue Governor Samuel Ortom said that herdsmen killed more than 20 people during the first two weeks of the month.
He said “Fulani terrorists” were involved in “unprovoked attacks in Guma, Logo and Gwer West, Agatu.” He added that this has led to a growing number of Internally Displaced People in Benue. “As I speak, more than 1.5 million people are still living in poor shanties as shelter. They have nowhere to go to.”
Hundreds of people were killed and dozens wounded since 2021 in the Gwer West County area alone, and many Christians were forced to flee their homes, according to local authorities.
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, mainly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages.
At least some adhere to the radical Islamist ideology of terror groups Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province], targeting Christians, several sources said.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said 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.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, said the Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report of advocacy group Open Doors.
Nigeria is behind only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report. “In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place,” noted Morning Star News. That “is its highest ranking ever, from Number 9 the previous year.”