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1 killed, 4 students kidnapped as gunmen invade school, church in Nigeria

1 killed, 4 students kidnapped as gunmen invade school, church in Nigeria

Students in Nigerian classroom in this undated photo. | (Photo: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

One person was killed and several others were abducted when suspected Fulani radicals were said to have attacked a secondary school and burned a church in a predominantly Christian village in Nigeria.

According to the London-based human rights watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the attack occurred at Prince Academy in the Damba-Kasaya Community in Chikun local government area last Monday. 

Residents of the area accused Fulani militia of arriving in large numbers around 7:45 a.m. when they are said to have invaded the school, abducted a teacher and four of his students.

The militants also reportedly broke into the Aminchi Baptist Church, destroyed musical instruments and the church’s public address system before setting objects inside the church on fire. 

According to witness testimony, 35-year-old Benjamin Auta was killed during the attack and leaves behind a wife and baby. 

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“Our church, Aminchi Baptist Church, here in Damba Kasaya, was burned, and Mr. Benjamin Auta, aged 35, was killed during the attack,” resident Nuhu Aruwa told Morning Star News.

Although local reports indicated that Auta was killed as he and others pursued the gunmen after they abducted the students and teacher, Aruwa told the nonprofit persecution news outlet that Auta was killed in his house located near the school. 

Aruwa stated that in total, the gunmen abducted seven Christian villagers. 

“Among them were four students of Prince Academy and one of their teachers,” Aruwa was quoted as saying. “Two other Christian farmers, a woman and a man were captured and taken away too by the herdsmen.”

Residents have identified the kidnapped students as 10-year-old Favour Danjuma, 15-year-old Miracle Saitu Danjuma, 16-year-old Happiness Odoji and 17-year-old Ezra Bako. The abducted teacher has been identified as 29-year-old Christiana Madugu. 

“The situation in southern Kaduna is pressing and increasingly desperate. We extend our condolences to the family of Mr. Auta, and our prayers are with those who anxiously await the safe return of their loved ones,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement. 

CSW cited data by the Southern Kaduna People's Union showing that since 2019, at least 45 communities have been displaced and occupied in Kaduna state.

Mission Africa International stated in an August report that several tribal communities in Kaunda, including the Gbagyi, Adara, Chawai and Irigwe communities, have been “displaced from their ancestral lands by Fulani invaders.” 

“These apart from the deaths suffered put at above 500 from January to June 2020, the destruction of their home and displacement of 50,000 persons from 109 communities who cannot currently go to farm and harvest their produce,” the report explains. “In some of the communities, they have to pay protection taxes to invaders to get to their farms.”

Thomas urged the Nigerian government to “address this violence and insecurity in an earnest and unbiased manner” and “provide humanitarian assistance for the burgeoning number of displaced people and to guarantee their safe return to their homes and lands.”

“We also call on the European Union and the governments of the U.K. and U.S. to encourage the Kaduna state and federal governments to provide for these IDPs, who continue to rely on NGO and church donations for survival, and to allocate resources towards assisting them as a matter of urgency,” Thomas explained. 

Throughout the Middle Belt states of Nigeria, thousands of residents from predominantly Christian farming communities have been displaced and killed in recent years due to attacks by radicals from the nomadic predominantly-Muslim Fulani herding community. 

Some international human rights organizations have argued that the violence against Christians in Nigeria is reaching genocidal levels. 

In Kaduna state, there has been increased violence in recent years and months. 

At least 11 Christians, including a 16-year-old girl and pastor, were reportedly killed by suspected Fulani attackers in the Gora Ward of Zangon Kataf local government area on Aug. 18. Fulani militants were also said to have burned seven homes, according to the Southern Kaduna People’s Union. 

Last Thursday night, suspected Fulani radicals abducted a 14-year-old girl and three others after they failed to break into the home of Pastor Elisha Abu Dreams in the Mararaba Rido area of Kaduna’s Chikun local government area. 

Dreams, who is the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna state, told the Daily Post about how he and his family refused the attackers’ demands to open their house.

Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. Nigeria was added to the U.S. State Department’s “special watch list” of countries that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom last December over its failure to thwart violence in the country. 

Elsewhere in Nigeria, Islamic extremists from Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province continue with their violence against communities in the country’s northeast. 

A Nigerian civil society group International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law estimated that 1,202 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the first six months of 2020 by radicalized herdsmen and Islamic extremists. 

Of those deaths, 390 were attributed to killings committed by radical Islamic groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, in addition to armed bandits. The report attributed 812 killings committed by Fulani radicals in the Middle Belt states. 

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