An Islamic State terrorist faction in West Africa claims it killed 11 Christian aid workers in Nigeria in retaliation for the killings of IS leader Bakr al-Baghdadi and his spokesman in two separate U.S. military operations earlier this year.
The terrorist group known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province released a 56-second video published by the IS propaganda media arm Amaq that shows the shooting of one man followed by the beheading of 10 others.
Jihadists wearing black masks and beige uniforms lined up behind the hostages — who were all blindfolded — as they carried out the executions, according to those who've watched the video.
“This message is to the Christians in the world,” a man speaking over the video footage says in both Arabic and Hausa, a Nigerian language, said the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group, according to The New York Times which also reviewed the video. “Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them.”
The terrorist group's attack on Christians the day after Christmas was strategically planned, terrorism analysts told the BBC.
While the location of the execution hasn't been made public, Reuters reports that an earlier video indicated that ISWAP jihadists took the men hostage in “Maiduguri and Damaturu in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, where militants have been fighting for years to set up a separate Islamist state.”
“In that video, the captives pleaded for the Christian Association of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari to save them,” Reuters added.
Buhari condemned the terrorist group and their killings in a statement and series of posts on Twitter.
"We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don't represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world," he said in a statement.
In a message on Twitter Friday, Buhari added, “These agents of darkness are enemies of our common humanity and they don’t spare any victim, whether they are Muslims or Christians, and therefore, we shouldn’t let them divide us and turn us against one another.”
ISWAP split from the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2016 and declared its allegiance to IS. The group is also active in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali.
Earlier this month, The Christian Post reported that over 1,000 Christians have been killed this year in Nigeria as attacks by Fulani extremists continue to plague rural farming communities in the Middle Belt, according to estimates published by the U.K.-based nongovernmental organization Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust.
According to the report, there were “five major attacks” in Kaduna between January and November, which resulted in 500 deaths.
A HART spokesperson told CP that the 1,000 death estimation counts “predominantly people killed in Plateau, Southern Kaduna and Taraba states by Fulani herdsmen” but also includes killings by Boko Haram in Borno state.
The finding comes as a Nigeria-based civil society organization reported that at least 2,400 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2018.
In July, the international human rights nongovernmental organization Jubilee Campaign sent a report to the International Criminal Court warning that the “standard of genocide has now been reached” in Nigeria. The Jubilee Campaign report highlighted 52 attacks on farming communities.
Some have downplayed the role religion has played in the increasing violence in the Middle Belt, as some say that the violence is part of the decadeslong “herder-farmer” clashes that have escalated since farmers have settled on traditional grazing routes used by the herding communities.
Nigeria is ranked as the 12th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.
Follow Melissa Barnhart on Twitter: @MelBarnhart