By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
(Worthy News) - A kidnapped pastor in Nigeria faced imminent death Wednesday amid fears that authorities had ignored an ultimatum by Islamist militants to save his life.
The Boko Haram terror group had warned the Nigerian government that it would kill Pastor Bulus Yakuru if its demands were not met by March 3.
While not all details were available, local sources suggested that the demands included an unspecified ransom for the pastor's release, who has been held since Christmas Eve.
The Chibok community in Nigeria’s Borno State, including residents as well as family and church members of Pastor Yakuru reportedly contributed money for his release.
They also planned to meet a Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, to secure the pastor's life, Nigerian media said.
The Islamist militants abducted the pastor during a raid on the predominantly Christian village of Pemi, about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the town of Chibok, in which eleven people were reportedly killed on December 24. The gunmen also murdered five Christians abducted in the region as a so-called “Christmas present,” according to Christian aid workers familiar with the situation.
In a video recently released by Boko Haram, Pastor Bulus pleaded with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to intervene.
While one of the militants stood behind him with a knife, the pastor was filmed saying that his captors gave him an ultimatum on February 24. He said they threatened to kill him a week from that date.
“If you want me alive, I beg you in your capacity as president, the governor, and our local government chairman to save me from this suffering … Please pray for me … Please release me from this pain,” Pastor Bulus said.
His abduction is the latest in a series of Islamist kidnappings and killings of Christians and their church leaders.
In January 2020, Boko Haram killed kidnapped Pastor Lawan Andimi after holding him in captivity for more than two weeks. “The pastor, who was married with seven children, was abducted in Adamawa State during a series of Boko Haram attacks in the region,” recalled aid and advocacy group, Barnabas Fund.
The attacks added to a rapidly rising death toll in Nigeria.
Advocacy group Open Doors says Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of Christians murdered for their faith. Last year at least 3,530 Christians were killed, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to the Open Doors 2021 World Watch List.
Boko Haram militants are also held responsible for a recent arbitrary attack using rocket-propelled grenades on a densely populated area of Maiduguri city, Borno State.
The February 23 attack killed ten people, with the death toll later rising to 16, added Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in the area.
It cited an unidentified contact there as saying that the “mortar use in the terror group’s tactics seemed to be intended to send a message to newly-appointed security chiefs.”
The group wants to clarify “that the jihadists continue to be a menacing paramilitary force in the region,” the contact reportedly explained.