Four residents were reportedly killed and two others injured when suspected Fulani herdsmen raided a farming village in the Kaduna State of Nigeria Sunday evening.
According to reports, a group of about 100 suspected radical herdsmen burned at least 36 homes when they attacked and razed the Unguwan Magaji village in the Kamaru Chawai ward of the Kauru local government area.
Witnesses told the Christian humanitarian relief organization Stefanos Foundation that three women in the village were killed as attackers were said to have shot sporadically while residents were fleeing.
Additionally, one man who tried to flee during the attack reportedly died from cardiac arrest.
Witnesses claim that a quick intervention from people in the neighboring communities repelled the attackers, one of whom was killed during the altercation.
“When the attackers came to our house, they threatened to cut off my head, but I picked up my son and escaped through the back door and ran to the next village towards Kwall,” one resident, who was not named, told Stefanos Foundation.
“As I was running, I felt at a point that they may catch up with me, so I found a place between yam farm ridges and hid my son and continued to run in an attempt to distract them from getting to my son.”
The witness said that as he hid, he saw a local vigilante group coming to defend the residents of the village.
“They met me and asked me to move to a safer place while they engaged the attackers,” the witness said.
The deceased persons have been identified by the Southern Kaduna People’s Union as Sunday David, a father of seven; Hanatu Joseph, a mother of five children; Sarah Sunday, a mother of six children; and Dije Sajay, a mother of six children.
According to a statement from the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, the attackers stormed from behind the hills that serve as a boundary between Kaduna state and the Plateau state.
Luka Binniyat, the public relations officer with the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, said in the statement that the attackers came from four flanks to cause “confusion and pandemonium” for those attempting to defend the village.
According to Binniyat, the attackers targeted food stores and grains to make sure they burned as much food as they could.
“This is to ostensibly cause starvation, especially under this lockdown from the coronavirus,” Binniyat stated.
While advocates have complained that the Nigerian government is failing to hold perpetrators of Fulani attacks accountable, Binniyat said there is a rare opportunity now for police to investigate because they are now in possession of the deceased attacker’s phone.
“We are hereby calling on the police to take this rare lead and carry out a scrupulous forensic investigation and make their findings public,” Binniyat stated. “We shall keep a keen eye on this and we call on the general public to also show interest.”
According to the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, about 320 people have been displaced from the village and are in dire need of assistance.
Sunday’s attack was not the first time that Unguwan Magaji village was attacked.
According to the union, another attack occurred in November 2015 when armed herdsmen attacked the village and five others surrounded it. A total of 37 people were killed and 202 homes were razed. Additionally, the only Catholic church in the area was burned down.
Hundreds of Christians have reportedly been killed in attacks said to have been carried out by Fulani radicals this year.
The International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law estimates that at least 400 people have been killed by Fulani herdsmen in 2020 alone.
As Fulani attacks have seemingly increased in severity and quantity over the last several years, the nongovernmental organization also estimates that at least 11,500 Christians have been killed since 2015 by Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram militants and highway bandits.
Millions have been displaced throughout Nigeria and are in desperate need of help as advocates are concerned that the federal government is doing an inadequate job of responding to the human rights crises happening in the Middle Belt and Northeast parts of Nigeria.
The U.S. State Department in December listed Nigeria for the first time on its “special watch list” for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom because of the lack of effective government response to the violence in the country.
As Fulani attacks have displaced residents in Middle Belt states like Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, and Taraba from their farms and homes, human rights groups have argued that the level of violence facing Christians in Nigeria has reached the standard to be declared a “genocide.”
Nigeria is ranked as the 12th worst country in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.