- (Photo: Screen Grab via YouTube/AFP news agency)
At least 200 people were killed and three villages were raided in a major new offensive by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria on Monday. The gunmen reportedly dressed like soldiers and tricked the locals before carrying out the massacre.
"We all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us," said one community leader who escaped the massacre, The Associated Press reported.
The attacks focused on the villages of Danjara, Agapalwa, and Antagara in northeastern Nigeria. The terrorists reportedly drove into the villages in pickup trucks used by the military and said that they were soldiers who were there to "protect" the villagers. As people gathered in the center, the gunmen began shouting "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" (God is great), before they opened fire.
"There were deadly attacks on these villages by Boko Haram insurgents who killed a large number of people and destroyed homes," lawmaker Peter Biye, who represents the area in Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament, told AFP.
"We are still trying to compile a toll of the dead as people on the ground are still counting the number of casualties."
Boko Haram's war against the Nigerian government has stretched over five years now. It has often targeted churches and congregations in its mission to drive out Christians from the country and establish Islamic rule.
The violence Christians in Nigeria face has been well documented, and on Wednesday watchdog group Open Doors identified the African country as the place where believers experience the most violent attacks.
"The alarming trend of violence against Christians in Nigeria over the past months highlights the lack of religious freedom they have and the daily dangers they face from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram and other violent Islamic organizations," said Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry.
"Going to school, attending church or identifying yourself as a Christian is a very brave decision in Nigeria. It is turning into a bloodbath. Christians in the West must stand in the gap with our prayers and support."
In April, Boko Haram made headlines around the world after the group kidnapped close to 270 school girls from a school in Chibok, and said that they would sell them as child brides. The U.S. And U.K. sent military teams into Nigeria to help the army look for the girls, but so far they have not been recovered.
Boko Haram's numerous bombings and shootings in Nigeria have left more than 2,000 people dead this year alone. An estimated 750,000 Nigerians are said to have fled their homes.