Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen on Thursday (March 24) killed an estimated 50 Christians and abducted a Catholic priest in attacks on communities in an area of Kaduna state, Nigeria, area sources said.
In late-night attacks on 10 predominantly Christian communities of Giwa County, herdsmen and others also took about 100 people captive and burned down a church building, area residents said.
“They also burned houses, stores and killed animals,” resident Nuhu Musa told Morning Star News by text message. “These attacks continued and lasted up to the morning of Friday, 25 March. 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 said. The burned church building was located in Zangon Tama village, and the assailants also raided the villages of Unguwar Kaya Fatika, Barebari, Dillalai, Unguwar Bakko, Gidan Alhajin Kadi, Kadanya and Durumi, he said.
“Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna state is bleeding,” Musa said.
Samuel Aruwan, commissioner in Kaduna state’s Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, said initial reports showed the assailants had attacked the villages of Dillalai, Barebari, Dokan Alhaji Ya’u, Durumi, Kaya and Fatika.
The Catholic priest, the Rev. Felix Fidson Zakari of St. Ann’s Catholic Church, was taken away at gunpoint from Zangon Tama village along with others, four area residents said. The residents and a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Zaria requested prayer for the abducted priest.
Among other villagers, Julius Agbado, a member of the Catholic church, said, “Please kindly pray for the safe release of Rev. Fr. Felix Fidson Zakari, a priest of St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Zangon Tama, under the Catholic Diocese of Zaria, who was kidnapped after armed herdsmen and terrorists attacked Zangon Tama.”
Another area resident, Muazu Gogi, lamented the government’s failure to protect villagers against such attacks, which have become commonplace in Kaduna state.
“Pray for us to survive these attacks by herdsmen and bandits,” Gogi said. “These herdsmen and bandits attacked several villages in Giwa Local Government Area and killed more than 50 persons. The government is aware about the killings and destructions by these Fulani terrorists and armed bandits but is unable to protect the people.”
Killings in Benue State
In Benue state, Fulani herdsmen early Wednesday (March 23) killed three Christians, following the slaughter of more than 20 people in predominantly Christian areas of the state earlier in the month, sources said.
Residents of predominantly Christian Yoli village, in Katsina-Ala County, said the Fulani attacked at about 2 a.m. and also wounded a dozen people, forcing many to flee their homes.
“The Fulani, who had guns and weapons like machetes, attacked Christians in one of our villages, Yoyo community in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area,” Comfort Angula told Morning Star News in a text message. “They killed three members of the community, and many were forced to flee the village.”
Nicholas Kahiorga said the three Christians slain were members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church (NKST in Nigeria) in the village.
Alfred Atera, local council official of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area, confirmed the killing of the three Christians in a statement on Thursday (March 24).
The killings follow similar herdsmen attacks this month in Benue state. In Guma County, herdsmen on March 10-12 attacked Ahentse village, killing five Christians on March 12, local residents said.
On March 10 in Iye village, herdsmen killed eight Christians, and on the same day in Udeyen village, six more were killed, area residents said. Prior to the attacks, residents said they received threatening letters from the herdsmen demanding that they leave the villages or be killed. The armed herdsmen who subsequently attacked rode motorcycles, they added.
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.
Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom said on March 14 that herdsmen killed more than 20 people the first two weeks of the month.
“In the last two weeks, more than 20 people have been killed by Fulani terrorists in unprovoked attacks in Guma, Logo and Gwer West, Agatu,” he said. “This has led to the growing number of IDPs [Interntally 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.”
A community leader said in Gwer West County on March 15 said that since 2011 herdsmen have killed 390 people in the area and wounded 37. Daniel Abomste said the attacks took place in the districts of Sengey, Mbachohon, Gbaange/Tongov, Tyoughatee and Saghev/Ukusu.
“Christians in these areas have been displaced by the herdsmen attacks and forced to flee their homes,” Abomste said.
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 do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’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 states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe 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 (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to 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.
Nigeria trailed 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, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.