A jihadist insurgency affiliated with Boko Haram brutally murdered a Christian bride and her bridal party days before her wedding, a spokesperson for a Catholic diocese in Nigeria has confirmed.
Father Francis Arinse, the communications director for the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, told the Catholic News Service that every member of the bridal party for former parishioner Martha Bulus was killed by Boko Haram extremists on Dec. 26 in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state.
Arinse said the bridal party was traveling from Maiduguri to Bulus’ country home in Adamawa at the time they were killed.
Bulus’ wedding was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Eve in Adamawa state.
“They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,” Arinse was quoted as saying.
According to Arinse, Bulus used to attend St. Augustine Catholic Church in Maiduguri when he was first ordained.
The alleged murders of Bulus and her friends fell on the same day in which 11 Christian aid workers were reportedly murdered by Islamic extremists after being taken hostage in Maiduguri and Damaturu.
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The terror group is known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province, a breakaway group of Boko Haram affiliated with the Islamic Ste in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility. A 56-second video was published by the Islamic States’ propaganda media arm, Amaq News Agency, showing one of the aid workers being shot and 10 others beheaded.
The terror group claimed that the killing of the 11 aid workers was revenge for the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi thanks to U.S. military operations last October.
In the video, captives were shown pleading for the Christian Association of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue them.
Arinse also told the Catholic News Service that there have been a series of abductions in the Maiduguri area recently, and called on government agencies to improve security in northeast Nigeria.
Last month, the U.S. State Department listed Nigeria on its “special watch list,” designating it among countries that have “severe violations of religious freedom” because of the Nigerian government’s inability to thwart an increase in violence and abductions carried out in various areas of the country.
In addition to Boko Haram and other extremists in the northeast, thousands of Christians are said to have been killed in Nigeria’s Middle Belt in recent years due to attacks carried out by nomadic Fulani herder radicals.
“We are designating [Nigeria] special watch list for the first time because of all of the increasing violence and communal activity and the lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told reporters in December.
“It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria. The government has either not been willing to or have been ineffective in their response and the violence continues to grow.”
The U.K.-based nongovernmental organization Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust issued a report in November claiming that at least 1,000 Christians were killed by Fulani and Boko Haram extremists in 2019 while as many as 6,000 have been killed since 2015.
Recently, Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai challenged troops not to give terrorists “any breathing space,” according to the Nigerian news outlet The Punch.
“That means you must go out at all times, day and night, whether rain or sunshine and make sure you deal with them,” Buratai was quoted as saying during a recent visit with troops in Adamawa state.
Nigeria ranks as the 12th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.