The Fulani herdsmen terrorists reportedly killed over 800 Christians and moderate Muslims, as well as destroyed at least 16 churches, in the last few months of 2016 in Nigeria, representing a rising Islamic threats for believers.
Although Christians in Nigeria have been heavily targeted by the Boko Haram terror group since 2009, the nomadic Fulani herdsmen have also been growing more violent in their attacks, with the last three months of 2016 resulting in the deaths of hundreds of believers, according to a local bishop.
"Fifty-three villages burned down, 808 people murdered and 57 wounded, 1,422 houses and 16 churches destroyed," Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of the Diocese of Kafanchan told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, recounting the violence Christians have faced since September.
The bishop pointed out that the Fulani radicals target both Christians and moderate Muslims, and although the conflicts have partially been based on farming land disputes, the terrorists are now using "sophisticated weapons they didn't have before, such as AK-47s of unknown provenance."
"In addition to the social and economic issues that have fueled conflict since ancient times, such as the distribution of the land and shortage of grazing, the dimension of the problem has changed," Bagobiri continued.
"The Fulani are Muslim and the land they are attacking belongs mainly to ethnic groups that are Christian; now there is religious hatred driving the violence."
The escalating violence in the Fulani herdsmen attacks has been given only limited coverage in Western media, though some watchdog groups, such as Release International, have highlighted this trend.
The group pointed out that the widespread violence carried out by the Fulani militants has fueled the suffering of Christians in Nigeria, even with reports of military success against Boko Haram in 2016.
Bagobiri said in his latest statement that Christians and their churches are specifically being targeted by the Fulani terrorists, and accused the government of not doing enough to stop the violence.
"The attacks on Christians meet with seeming indifference on the part of the country's leadership – either the police do not have the appropriate weaponry to intervene, or else they have not been given orders to do so," the bishop argued.
The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans also expressed its dissatisfaction with the government's actions earlier in 2016, with Pastor Ade Oyesile, the group's executive director, stating in July:
"Whatever the federal government is doing, if any, is either too slow or insignificant compared with the reoccurrence of the killings; the federal government needs to step up and take bold actions to give members of the Christian community in the country a sense of security and belonging."
Oyesile added at the time: "We MUST all work hard to avoid these sectarian killings which in our very eyes have made countries embroiled in it to become failed nations. That should not be our portion in Jesus Christ name."