Fulani herdsmen pose for a picture in Zango, Zango-kataf local govt, Kaduna State, Nigeria, in March 22, 2014. | REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
ABUJA, Nigeria — Suspected Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists in the past month killed at least 30 Christians in Plateau state, Nigeria and 10 in Kaduna state, where they also demanded payment for a corpse after collecting ransom for the Christian they kidnapped and killed.
In Plateau state’s Bokkos County, hundreds of suspected Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists invaded predominantly Christian villages, and wounded 20 Christians, burned down a church building and destroyed homes, area residents said.
An attack on Ser village at 10 p.m. on Nov. 23 left nine Christians dead and 20 injured, they said. The approximately 200 assailants also burned down 30 houses. Area resident John Akos said the attack was the third within a week.
The assailants on Nov. 22 also attacked Bokkos County’s Wumat village, killing 11 Christians and burning down dozens of houses, Akos said. Area resident Mathias Goshe concurred that about 200 herdsmen and other terrorists attacked Wumat village at about 10 p.m., shot at fleeing Christians and burned down dozens of houses.
“The invaders were no doubt Fulani herdsmen and terrorists,” Goshe said. “They were communicating with each in the Fulfulde [Fulani] language as they were attacking us. This aside, they were armed with guns and machetes.”
In Maikatako village and Dadin Kowa, more than 300 Fulani herdsmen attacked on Nov. 16-17, killing 11 Christians, according to Solomon Maren, a parliamentarian in Nigeria’s National Assembly representing the Bokkos area. He said in a press statement that they also burned down a church building and more than 20 houses in the two predominantly Christian villages.
“Within a month, we have buried more than 30 Christians killed by the herdsmen,” Maren said. “These victims include women and children.”
Maikatako area resident Sule Marshall identified some of those slain in the Maikatako attack as Seth Matthew, 2; Peret Satmak, 13; Longkinan Satmak, 1; Taho Isa, 7; Umundum Maren, 82; Satmun Gyokos, 27; Larai Ginai, 70; Dorcas Satmak, 28; Nanribet Satmak; Sakanjalla Isa; and Ubwas Emmanuel.
Maren added that more than 300,000 hectares of farmlands were “destroyed by the herders due to deliberate and reckless grazing without caution and/or fear of anybody. Most farmers had little or no harvest due to this wicked action of unscrupulous herders.”
Solomon Mwantiri of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria said in a press statement that from Nov. 10 to 16, the herdsmen and other terrorists invaded the predominantly Christian villages of Maikatako, Kunet, Maiyanga, Maijankai, Folloh and Sangwak.
“These villages are located in Bokkos LGA, Plateau state, rendering hundreds of survivors homeless,” Mwantiri said. “In Folloh village, the following Christians are victims affected by the attacks: Namang John, Lydia John, Jambweng Istifanus, Mangun John, Isa Peter, Lawrence Mafulul, Samuel Magit, Sunday Magit, Ibrahim Magit, Danjuma Musa, Bala Mafwalal, Doy Bala, Michael Danladi, Matur Mambayat, John Peter, Danjuma Mashor, Teni John, Tajan Garba, Tawum Matur and David Sule.”
Wounded in the attack were Christians Michael Danladi, Danjuma Mashor, Pollong Sunday, Mamot Peter, Awang Peter, Toma Magit, Mandik Garba and Micah Mariyom, he added.
Police and military authorities confirmed the attacks on these Christian communities. Alabo Alfred, a spokesman for the Plateau State Police Command, said in a message to Morning Star News, “The incidents were reported to us. We have deployed police personnel to the affected areas in order to curtail the attacks.”
Maj. Ishaku Takwa, spokesman of the military’s Special Task Force (STF) in Jos, Plateau state, also confirmed the attacks in Bokkos in a statement.
Kaduna state killings
In neighboring Kaduna state, suspected Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists killed 10 Christians and kidnapped nine others, including a Roman Catholic priest, in the past three weeks, area residents said.
In Kajuru County, the assailants invaded the villages of Cibiya, Karamai, Gefe and Tudun Mare, killing six Christians, said Kajuru resident Victor Mathias in a text message to Morning Star News. Two of those were killed on Thursday (Nov. 24) in Cibiya and Karamai villages, he said.
Samuel Aruwan, commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs in Kaduna state, identified the two slain as Idon Bonos and Aston Namaskar of the Cibiya and Karamai communities in Kufana, Kajuru County. He added that several people were injured.
Herdsmen and other terrorists on Nov. 13 attacked Gefe and Tudun Mare villages at about 10 p.m., killing four Christians, area resident Didan Auta said in a text message to Morning Star News. He identified one of the slain as Elisha Arziki, a member of the Baptist Church.
In Chikun County, four Christians were killed in a Nov. 13 attack on Sabon Gaya village, said county resident Kefas Ibrahim, whose brother was among those slain. On the same day, herdsmen and other terrorists killed three Christians in Kankomi village, a Chikun area residents said in text messages.
Aruwan, the Kaduna state commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, confirmed the attack on Kankomi village in a statement. “Sadly, while exploring the withdrawal route of the bandits, three corpses were found by the troops, apparently locals killed by the fleeing bandits,” he said.
In Kaduna state’s Kachia County, nine Christians were kidnapped on Nov. 8, including a Catholic priest, the Rev. Abraham Kunat, from Idon Gida village, according to area resident Joel Daniel. The Rev. Christian Emmanuel, chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, said in a statement that Kunat is parish priest of St. Bernard Catholic Church in Idon Gida village.
About 15 terrorists kidnapped Kunat from his residence at 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, Emmanuel said.
Ransom demand for corpse
A Christian telecommunications worker who was abducted at Sabon Gaya on the Kaduna-Abuja Highway in October was killed by the kidnappers on Nov. 17 after they had received a ransom payment of 3 million naira ($6,755) for his release, his brother said.
Kefas Ibrahim said his brother, Obadiah Ibrahim, was tortured to death, and that the kidnappers have since demanded a ransom for the return of his corpse.
“My brother, a father of two children, was kidnapped in early October by bandits while he was out in the field checking on installations of the company he was working for,” Ibrahim said. “The bandits contacted us and demanded that we pay a ransom of the amount of 200 million naira ($450,418), but after a long process of negotiations, they reduced the ransom to 10 million naira ($22,520). We were able to raise 3 million naira, but unfortunately after collecting the money from us, they still killed my brother on Nov. 17.”
Ibrahim said the kidnappers are now demanding 10 million naira ($22,520) for the release of the corpse.
“The bandits said that if we pay them 10 million naira, they’ll release my brother’s corpse to us,” he said. “This is a very sad and depressing situation for us as my brother was tortured to death. As Christians, we know that they can only kill the body, but not the soul, as my brother is already in fellowship with Jesus Christ in Heaven. We have forgiven them and pray that they’re convicted by the Holy Spirit so that they can repent and turn away from evil.”
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 USA’s 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.