JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen killed 10 Christians, including three children, in an attack in Plateau state, Nigeria in the early hours of Friday (Nov. 26), sources said.
It was the second attack on Christians in Bassa County in one week. In the attack on sleeping Christians in Te’egbe village just after midnight, three were wounded and at least 690 people from the predominantly Christian area in Miango District were displaced, area residents said.
Dozens of armed herdsmen attacked from about midnight to 2 a.m. on Friday (Nov. 26), said Danjuma Auta, a community leader in Bassa County who is secretary general of the Irigwe Development Association (IDA).
“This calculated attack was carried out by the Fulani herdsmen, who intruded from the boundaries of Kaduna and Plateau states, as victims said the attackers came en masse to carry out these devilish acts,” Auta said in a press statement.
Six of the 10 Christians killed were from one family, while the other four were killed in four homes, said Auta, adding that 114 houses were burned down and 690 Christians were displaced. He identified those killed, all members of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in ‘Te’egbe village, as Gara Ku, 80; Wiye Gara, 67; Tala Gara, 68; Rikwe Bala Yoh, 65; Tabitha Danlami, 8; Sibi Danlami, 4; Friday Musa, 35; Daniel Mandi, 45; Mweri Chogo, 86; and Ayo Balai, 6.
He identified the wounded Christians as Musa Kwa, 60; Sibi Gara, 65; and Nma Weyi, 40, and said they were all receiving treatment. The herdsmen also burned down 57 food barns, Auta said.
“Once again, we are constrained to express our pains concerning the renewed orchestrated attacks on our people for no reason by Fulani herdsmen,” Auta said. “Just last week, these Fulani herders sent a letter warning us of an impending attack on our communities, but military authorities in Jos dismissed it as an empty threat; the Fulani marauders made real their threat when they attacked Ancha village on Tuesday, Nov. 23 and killed two Christians.”
Sen. Istifanus Gyang, who represents Plateau state in Nigeria’s parliament, the National Assembly, expressed concern that armed herdsmen have been allowed to continuously attack Christians.
“These terrorists have been emboldened to undertake repeated attacks due to the inability of the government to give clear and definite orders to the military to decisively engage the terrorists to end the cycle of attacks on peace-loving Christians and their communities in Plateau state,” Gyang said in a press statement. “Military authorities must take all necessary steps to secure law-abiding citizens and ensure that those behind the Te’egbe attacks are apprehended to face justice.”
Platea state Gov. Simon Bako Lalong expressed sadness over the unabated attacks in a statement by spokesman Makut Simon Macham, who said the attacks were unprovoked.
“Governor Lalong says this is another sad incident which is clearly the handiwork of criminals that are bent on instilling fear, pain and sorrow among the people with a view to destabilizing the state and making fortune from their criminality as well as rupturing the substantial peace attained,” Macham said. “The governor totally condemns the attack and says there is no explanation that can justify it. He therefore directs security agencies to take immediate and drastic steps to apprehend the perpetrators and ensure that they pay for their crimes.”
Nigeria was 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 Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List 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 list.
In this year’s World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.
The U.S. State Department on Nov. 17 removed Nigeria from its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), those that engage in or tolerate violations of religious freedom. Christian Solidarity International President John Eibner, among other aid and advocacy group leaders, criticized the move.
“Removing this largely symbolic sign of concern is a brazen denial of reality and indicates that the U.S. intends to pursue its interests in western Africa through an alliance with Nigeria’s security elite, at the expense of Christians and other victims of widespread sectarian violence, especially in the country’s predominantly Christian Middle Belt region,” Eibner said in a statement. “If the U.S. CPC list means anything at all – an open question at this point – Nigeria belongs on it.”
In the past few years Fulani jihadist militias have killed thousands of Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region and displaced millions, according to CSI.
“The goal of these attacks,” Eibner said, “is to weaken and eliminate indigenous non-Muslim populations from the region and entrench Muslim supremacy in this historically contested space, for the political benefit of Nigeria’s current rulers.”
A sharp rise in attacks led CSI to issue a Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria in 2020.
The State Department identified Islamic extremist Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa as “Entities of Particular Concern,” in regard to religious freedom, but it omitted the Fulani militias that terrorize indigenous Christian communities in Nigeria, Eibner said.
“It appears that the true purpose of Nigeria’s de-listing and the exclusion of Fulani militias as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’ is to pave the way for renewed cooperation between the United States and Nigeria’s national security establishment, which is dominated, as it has traditionally been, by Muslim political elites from northern Nigeria,” according to CSI.
CSI urged the State Department not only to return Nigeria to the CPC list but to re-orient its Nigeria policy around ending the massacres of Nigerian Christians and others and preventing the degeneration of the Nigerian state into further violence.
“It is a short-sighted policy that prioritizes cooperation with the ruling elite at the risk of genocide,” CSI stated.
Nigeria had been added to the CPC list in December 2020. On Dec. 10, 2020, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.
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.
The APPG report noted that tribal loyalties cannot be overlooked.
“In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, was elected president of Nigeria,” the group reported. “He has done virtually nothing to address the behavior of his fellow tribesmen in the Middle Belt and in the south of the country.”
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