By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Islamic Fulani herdsmen in northern Nigeria wounded a pregnant woman and set homes on fire over the weekend after killing a pastor in attacks on Christian villages, Christians confirmed Monday.
The violence near Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna State, followed the killing of a kidnapped evangelical pastor in attacks that made Nigeria among the top 10 countries where Christians face most persecution, Christians said.
Reverend Dauda Bature of the First Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Hayin Narayi village in Kaduna state, was confirmed dead last week.
He had been held by armed Muslim Fulani herdsman who kidnapped him on November 8 while working on his village farm, Christians confirmed.
Church leaders said they learned of his death Thursday, December 9, despite paying a ransom for his release.
The kidnappers told the ECWA they killed the pastor “since they could not bring more money,” said the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) umbrella group.
Pastor Bature’s wife, who was also kidnapped and was released on December 6, told church leaders that her husband preached Christ to his captors.
He even prayed for their repentance, infuriating them and likely contributing to their decision to kill him, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Sources said Pastor Bature’s wife had been taken hostage when she took ransom payment to the herdsmen on Nov 18.
Violence continued in the area over the weekend, but fast action by Nigeria’s army reportedly prevented further harm by heavily armed herdsmen.
The gunmen reportedly attacked the Sabo GRA area at about 1 a.m. local time Saturday trying to capture a Christian pregnant woman and her in-law. “But the military rescued them,” resident Agwam Adams told Christian news agency Morning Star News.
“The woman sustained gunshot wounds on her leg. The attack in Sabo GRA is a serious one, but thank God for the prompt intervention from the Nigerian army,” he was quoted as saying.
The herdsmen also attempted to kidnap another Christian family and, upon realizing their house was empty, set it ablaze, he said.
Police spokesman Mohammed Jalige confirmed the attack, saying in published remarks there were about 30 assailants in military gear and bearing dangerous weapons.
The area Kaduna Police Command received a distress call, and police and “other security agents” were dispatched, he said.
“The criminals, on sensing the presence of security agents, started shooting indiscriminately,” Jalige said.
“The operatives did not hesitate in returning fire for fire and succeeded in foiling the attempt. The criminals, frustrated by the police and other security agents, set residents’ homes on fire and fled.”
Dorcas Alex, a resident of Sabo GRA, told Morning Star News that when she heard the herdsmen’s gunshots, she phoned a military patrol team.
“I’m truly angry about the state of insecurity in Kaduna state,” Alex added.”Christians are no longer safe. We are traumatized by the constant attacks on our people by these herdsmen.”
Jalige said that a simultaneous attack on Oil village near Sabo, unfortunately, resulted in the kidnapping of a woman and her four children. Oil village residents sent text messages to Morning Star News during the attack.
“Oil village and Sabo GRA, Christian communities, are under attacks from Muslim Fulani herdsmen right now,” read one message from Oil village resident Rita Usman.
Another predominantly Christian village, Unguwar Gimbiya, was also attacked in the wee hours of Saturday, December 11, said village resident Maryam Kokwain. Area resident Barnabas Yohanna stressed it had been attacked several times in recent months.
“My church elder was killed on the night of Friday, December 3, by herdsmen terrorists,” Yohanna stressed. “He was murdered in cold blood by terrorists who raided Ungwar Gimbiya. Fifty other Christians were kidnapped.”
Nearby, Unguwar Dodo was also attacked early Saturday, according to residents.
The violence came as the Open Doors advocacy group showed Nigeria jumping from number 12 to nine on its annual World Watch List of 50 worst nations for Christians.
Christian leaders in Nigeria believe herdsmen in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification made it difficult for them to sustain their herds. Nigeria led the world in several kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List report.
It was also the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to the report.
In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the Open Doors investigators.
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views.
But some Fulani adheres to radical Islamist ideology, Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report said.