JOS, Nigeria – A rash of attacks by armed Muslim extremists on villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state in the past month have left more than 100 Christians dead, including the elimination of entire families, sources said.
In a guerilla-type “hit and run” attack on the Christian community of Vwang Kogot, Muslim attackers at about 8 p.m. on Sept. 9 killed 14 Christians, including a pregnant woman. Survivors of the attack told Compass that the assailants raided the village with the aid of men in military uniforms of the Nigerian Army.
Many of the victims were members of a single family surnamed Danboyi.
“We heard gunshots in our village and realized that the sound was coming from a neighbor’s house, so we quickly ran to find out what was happening but saw a soldier at the entrance of the house with a gun ready to shoot at anybody who comes around, and at the same time preventing those inside from escaping,” village resident Markus Mamba told Compass. “We couldn’t get any closer because we were hearing gunshots at random, and we had no weapons with us to use to withstand the might of those soldiers, as there were quite a number of them around the house.”
Hiding, Mamba and others could only observe the killing, he said.
“After the soldiers and the Muslims left, we rushed into the place to see the destruction they did,” he said. “We discovered that 14 people were killed. Among them was a pregnant woman who died with a child in her womb – bringing the number of deaths to 15 persons. We also observed that the victims died from gun and machete wounds.”
Gyang Badung survived the attack, but his wife, four children, mother, grandmother and a nephew did not, he told Compass.
“I came home in the evening and had my meal, and right after I finished, I heard strange movement around our house and suddenly heard gunshots everywhere as my house was being attacked,” Badung said.
He jumped through his bedroom window and ran to a farm behind his house, he said.
“I waited in the bush, helpless, not knowing what to do until they left,” he said. “I saw more than nine people who came to attack us leaving into the bush and going away from our village. When I returned home, I found out that my whole family had been killed except for two sons, who were injured but survived, and my father who also narrowly escaped and ran into the bush.”
The ages of the children he lost were 15, 9, 5, and 4. His two injured sons are receiving hospital treatment.
Vou Mallam, another survivor of the attack, was with her husband and children when the raiders broke into their house. She escaped death when she found a hiding place in one of the rooms. Her husband, only son and grandchildren were killed.
“After our evening meal, we prayed and asked the children to go to bed,” she told Compass. “Suddenly we heard gunshots in our house, so I quickly crawled into the children’s room and put off the lamp and crawled again to hide under the bed in another place. I saw a soldier with a gun coming into the room, but he did not see me, and I heard some of them saying by the window, ‘There is nobody here.’
“But it was like they heard a movement and immediately started shooting. That was how they killed my husband in the place he was hiding, and my only son and his children in the other room were all killed.”
She said she heard the assailants speaking the Fulani language. Ethnic Fulani are primarily Muslim nomads in Nigeria whom militant Muslims appear to be enlisting to attack Christian communities due to the Fulanis’ expert understanding of the terrain of rural communities, area Christians said. Having lived their lives as nomads with their cattle, the Fulani have acquired the skills to surmount tough environmental challenges, area residents believe.
Dachung Dagai, pastor of a Church of Christ in Nigeria congregation in Vwang Kogot, told Compass that the village has been attacked three times since he arrived eight months ago.
“I was transferred here on Jan. 5,” he said. “The second day of my being in this place, the Muslim attackers attacked this village, and after two weeks they came again and attacked our village, killing two of our members.”
Dagi reported that assault and two subsequent attacks to security agencies, but no action has been taken, he said.
“No help or relief from the government has been received by our people,” Dagai said. “We’ve just been living with the horror of not knowing what will happen next.”
Dagai said their main concern is that Nigerian army soldiers have been involved in each attack.
“What is the government doing about the soldiers?” he said. “In some places, enough evidence has been found against these Muslim soldiers and nothing has been done. Can’t the soldiers be withdrawn from the state? We are not in a war situation on the plateau, and the soldiers were brought for peace-keeping, but they are the ones leading attacks against us. Why can’t they be withdrawn? The government officials have always said they will look into the problems, but nothing has been done.”
Adamu Tsuka, community leader in Vwang Kogot, told Compass that Christians killed in the attack were Mallam Danboyi; Zaka Danboyi; Ngyem Danboyi; Hjan Badung; Naomi Gyang; Rifkatu, 15; Patience, 9; Ishaku, 5; Nerat, 4; Dauda Badung, 22; Martha Dauda, 20; Mary Dauda, 6; Isaac Dauda, 4; Mafeng Bulus, 18; and the unborn child.
“This is the fifth time our people have been murdered,” Tsuka said. “There is nothing we can do. Many of my people have been killed. Please, we want the government to help us do something; if not, we can’t live here again.”
The January attack in Vwang Kogot village left no casualties. The second attack took place in the same month, resulting in the killing of Baba Wang Mwantap. The third raid this year took place in May, when two Christians, Bulus Pam and Irimiya Maisaje, were killed, area residents said.
On Sept. 10, Muslim extremists stormed Vwang Fwil village at about 3 a.m. and killed 13 Christians. Several others were being treated at Vom Christian Hospital, sources said.
On Sept. 8, Muslim extremists attacked Tsohon Foron village, killing 10 Christians, all members of the family of Danjuma Gyang Tsok. The attackers, surviving members of the community say, were assisted in the attack by armed military personnel of the Nigerian Army.
Those killed included Danjuma Gyang Tsok; Polohlis Mwanti; Perewat Polohlis, 9; Patience Polohlis, 3; Blessing Polohlis, 5; Paulina Pam, 13; Maimuna Garba; Kale Garba; Hadiza Garba, 10; and Aisha Garba, 3.
In the village of Zakalio in Jos North Local Government Area, at about 2 a.m. on Sept. 5, Muslim extremists killed seven Christians. The same day another group of Muslim attackers raided the Christian communities of Dabwak Kuru and Farin Lamba in Jos South and Riyom Local Government Areas, killing four Christians.
On Sept. 4, Muslim extremists attacked Tatu village near Heipang, killing eight Christian members of a family – Chollom Gyang and his wife Hannatu and their six children, including a 3-year-old, sources said. They were shot and then butchered with machetes.
The attack on Tatu village occurred less than three weeks after the killing of the family of a Christian identified only by the surname of Agbo and a staff member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at Heipang on Aug. 15. In addition, on Aug. 20, three Christians were killed at Kwi village and one at Loton village.
Emmanuel Dachollom Loman, chairman of the Barkin Ladi Local Government Council, told Compass that there was no doubt that those who attacked were Muslims.
“I was sleeping when I received a phone call at about 12:30, shortly after midnight, that some unknown persons came to attack and killed all members of a family,” he said. “A few weeks ago, seven members of a family were killed in a similar attack. This is becoming too much to bear; the government should help us in this local government before Muslims come and wipe all of us out one day. I can’t contain this anymore; it’s too much.”
Loman said he has repeatedly reported the attacks to security agencies and the Nigerian government, but nothing has been done to protect his people.
“We have made appeals to the federal government,” Loman said. “We have told them that the Muslims in the area of Mahangar village have lots of sophisticated weapons, and that they are the ones attacking my people, but the federal government has refused to do anything about it.”
He complained to a federal government delegation that came to investigate the killing of eight family members of another family last month, he said, “but our concerns and fears have been ignored.”
Other villages attacked in the past month were Rassa and Rabwat.