Islamic Fulani radicals murdered seven Christians in a Nigerian town the day after Christmas, according to persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern.
The ICC, which has been documenting the targeted killings of believers in Nigeria, said that armed Fulani militants attacked the town of Rawuru in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State on Wednesday.
The village suffered another deadly incident in June, when 230 Christians were murdered by militants.
“The size and coordination of those attacks showed that this could not just be another small local clash. It was clearly a well thought out and preplanned attack meant to kill as many people as possible,” ICC said.
“These types of attacks are not the normal farmer-herder conflict that the Nigerian government has been trying to claim they are,” they continued, referring to both government and international mainstream media reports attempting to portray the murders as a result of clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers.
“They are clearly meant to kill, terrify, and displace local villagers from their land. If the Nigerian government does not end this conflict sometime soon, there could be continued violent conflict which turns into a civil war.”
AFP also reported on the attack in Rawuru, though it said that five people were killed, while another two were injured.
State police spokesman Tyopeeve Terna said the victims were returning home late Wednesday from a birthday party in the neighboring Pugu village when they were ambushed.
Terna vowed that police will hunt down the killers and bring them to justice.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is preparing for elections in February, has been criticized by Christian leaders in the country for failing to protect citizens and stand up to the Fulani militants.
The Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, revealed that he delivered a report to Buhari in November highlighting the slaughter of 646 Christians in Plateau state between March and October.
“The devastation in terms of massacre of lives and destruction of property is unimaginable. Pastors and members in their thousands have been killed in cold blood, either shot dead or slaughtered like animals or burned to death. Houses and businesses have been burned or looted and farmlands have been destroyed,” Datiri said, reflecting on years of attacks.
“The proficiency and mode of operation in all of these attacks, as testified by the surviving victims, leaves us in no doubt of the complicity of the military being used as hired mercenaries by the Fulani militias,” he added.
“On this, we are disappointed, and sadly so, that the government has not delivered on her constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property.”
ICC said that by its estimates, 1,700 people were killed in 2018 at the hands of Fulani radicals, though other Christian leaders have said that thousands more believers have been massacred.
The watchdog group said that the 1,700 number alone is already three times as many deaths as those committed by Boko Haram, the terror group that has been killing Christians and other civilians en masse since 2009.