Two Killed in Nigeria as Muslim Militants Attack Evangelists

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Assault on Christian gospel team leaves 20 injured.

by Obed Minchakpu

DUTSE, Nigeria, December 2, 2004 (Compass) -- Police authorities have arrested 10 Muslim militants in Dutse, the capital of the state of Jigawa in northern Nigeria, for perpetrating an attack on a team of Christian evangelists on Tuesday, November 23. The incident reportedly caused two deaths and left at least 20 people with injuries.

According to police, the militants’ aggressive action against the New Life For All gospel team provoked a violent clash with local Christians. Other Muslims reportedly joined in the fray, siding with the Christians against the militant group.

Police prosecution officer Yerima Inuwa told a Dutse magistrate court on Thursday, November 25, that the Muslim militants have been charged with breaching public peace under sections 113 and 248 of the penal code.

According to the police officer, the 10 heavily armed militants attacked the Christian evangelistic team and members of the public during an open air preaching event. Fighting then apparently broke out between the militants and moderate Muslim bystanders who voiced their disapproval of the militants’ attack on the Christians and the fundamentalist beliefs that provoked it.

Officer Inuwa told the court that a team of mobile policemen under the command of Inspector Muhammad Yakubu was deployed to the scene to restore law and order. Yakubu and his men arrested the 10 militants.

Police presented only six members of the militant group in court on Thursday, explaining that three of the accused were interned in Dutse General Hospital recovering from injuries.

Hospital authorities later told Compass that one of the militants died as a result of injuries sustained during the clash. The identity of the other person killed in the incident had not been disclosed at press time.

Presiding Magistrate Muhammad Abubakar adjourned the court hearing until December 6 in response to a request from police officers, who asked for time to conclude investigations into the matter. Abubakar ordered the militants remanded to prison to stand trial.

“This attack [is the] second in a year in which Christians are being attacked without provocation,” Rev. Umaru Dutse, chairman of the Jigawa state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Compass. “The attack by the Muslim fanatics took place as Christian evangelism groups went out on street evangelism.”

New Life For All is an interdenominational gospel ministry launched in 1969 as a united effort of evangelical churches in northern Nigeria to preach the Christian gospel in the area. According to CAN sources, members of the evangelistic team were among those injured in the attack.

In November 2003, Muslim extremists burned down 10 churches and destroyed over 100 properties belonging to Christians in Kazaure town, Jigawa. Those attacks claimed the lives of a number of Christians in the state, as well.

“The attack on us is premeditated and [shows] continuous persecution of the Christian community here,” Dutse said. “We have faced these attacks over the years, and the situation is becoming more difficult for us.”