Children ‘butchered to death’ by Fulani herders in attacks on Nigeria’s Christian villages

Christians hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. | AFP via Getty Images/KOLA SULAIMON

Suspected Fulani herdsmen brutally killed dozens of Christians, including children and eight members of one family, in attacks on Christian villages in Nigeria’s Plateau State, according to reports.

In one attack last Sunday, suspected armed jihadist herdsmen "butchered to death" 14 Christians, including children, in Kwi village in Riyom County near Jos, Morning Star News reported, quoting area resident Solomon Mandiks, a Christian rights activist.

Then, in a separate attack the same day, eight Christians were killed in Dong village in Jos North County, Asabe Samuel, a member of the local Evangelical Church Winning All congregation, was quoted as saying.

“I was by the central area of the village, which has shops and serves as a market, when I heard Fulani gunmen shooting around my house,” Samuel said. “This forced us to run to hide.”

Samuel added that despite the gunshots being shot from the direction of her house, “I still rushed to my house, and just as I was getting closer to my house, I found that one Istifanus Shehu, 40, a member of COCIN (Church of Christ in Nations) who has had mental health challenges, was shot dead, and his corpse was lying beside my house. We heard the attackers retreating and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar (Allah is greater).’ The herdsmen were also communicating with themselves in the Fulani language.”

Police arrived the following morning, Pastor Jonathan Kyoomnom Bala of the ECWA church in Dong, was quoted as saying.

“These herdsmen carried out the attack on us for about 40 minutes and left without intervention from soldiers or the police,” he said.

Before the 22 Christians were killed Sunday, 15 others were murdered by suspected herdsmen last month in the same state.

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern designates the Fulani Militia as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world and says it has surpassed Boko Haram as the greatest threat to Nigerian Christians.

“Many believe that the attacks are motivated by jihadist Fulani’s desire to take over farmland and impose Islam on the population and are frustrated with the Muslim-dominated government that is believed to be enabling such atrocities,” it adds.

The number of Christians murdered within the first four months of this year – 1,470 – was the highest since 2014 and surpasses the number of Christians killed in 2019, according to a recent report released by the Nigerian civil society group, Intersociety Rule of Law.

Northwestern Kaduna state recorded the highest number of Christian deaths, at 300. The Northcentral Benue state witnessed 200 murders of Christians, followed by the Central Plateau state with 90 Christian deaths, said Intersociety, an organization headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi.

The Northern Muslim-controlled Nigerian Army also killed at least 120 Christians in the states of Benue, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi, the report added.

In the first four months of this year, at least 2,200 Christians were abducted, with Kaduna state recording the highest number at 800 abductions.

The Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third-most affected country by terrorism and reported over 22,000 deaths by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019.

The U.S. Commission on International and Religious Freedom’s 2021 report warned that Nigeria “will move relentlessly toward a Christian genocide” if action is not taken.

Islamic extremism, particularly in Northeast Nigeria, has led to thousands of deaths and millions displaced in recent years. 

Nigeria was the first democratic nation to be added to the U.S. State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in “tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

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