ISWAP terrorists threaten to execute Nigerian pastor if ransom is not paid in 1 week

Christians faithfuls 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

A faction of the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria aligned with the Islamic State has released a video in which a Christian pastor says he will be killed if the ransom is not paid by Wednesday, pleading with the government and the Christian Association of Nigeria for help.

“I’m calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and the governor of Borno to help me, because I have been given a one-week ultimatum today, Feb. 24,” says Pastor Bulus Yikura of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, who was abducted last Christmas Eve during an attack on Pemi village in Chibok local government area of Borno State.

The video was obtained by the African news outlet HumAngle, which reports that the pastor had previously appeared in two other videos — one from December and another from January — in which he also pleaded with the Nigerian government for help. 

“If you want me alive, I beg you in your capacity as president, the governor and our local government chairman to save me from this suffering,” the kneeling pastor, with a knife-wielding masked man standing behind him, says in the Hausa language.

According to Morning Star News, a nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering Christian persecution worldwide, the video was released by Boko Haram's faction that is aligned with the Islamic State and goes by the name Islamic State West Africa Province. 

“Please pray for me. Today is the last day I will have the opportunity to call on you in your capacity as my parents and relatives in the country,” Yikura was quoted as saying. “Anyone who has the intention should help and save me. Please release me from this pain.”

Directing his statement at the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Yikura stated that he has “no means of freeing myself except through your assistance,” according to the Abuja-based online newspaper Premium Times

“This is the last opportunity given to me to call for help. After today I have no chance again to cry for help,” he was quoted as saying. “It is unto you I put all my hope. Thank you.”

A prior video obtained by Morning Star News on Jan. 31 featured the Islamic State logo and purported to be released by ISWAP.

In that video, Pastor Yikura appealed to church and other Christian leaders, along with government officials, to secure his release. He did not identify his church affiliation at the time.

The United States-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern has urged prayers for the Nigerian pastor. In the Dec. 24 attack in which the pastor was abducted, 11 were said to have been killed in addition to homes being destroyed. 

“Please pray … that the Lord will bring him comfort and set him free from his captors,” a statement from the organizations reads. “Please pray for the grieving families of those who were killed and kidnapped, and for the government to gain wisdom in rescuing believers in captivity. Please also pray for the world to recognize the scale of the suffering that believers are having to endure in Nigeria, as well as for the souls of those who persecute the church, that all will repent and find salvation in Christ.”

Last January, Rev. Lawan Andimi, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s chapter in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, was executed by Boko Haram because the ransom demanded by the terror group wasn’t paid and the Christian leader refused to deny Christ.

Andimi made headlines because he praised Christ in his ransom video released by his captors. 

“By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife and my children and all my colleagues,” he said in the video. “If the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God.”

Following his death, the Christian Association of Nigeria demanded answers from the Nigerian government and called for three days of fasting and prayer. 

Nigeria ranks as the 9th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List.

The Nigerian-based civil society group International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law estimated in January that hundreds of Christians were likely killed by radical extremists affiliated with Boko Haram in 2020. 

In December 2019, ISWAP released a video purporting to show extremists executing 11 Christians in retaliation for the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

“This message is to the Christians in the world,” a man speaking over the video footage says in both Arabic and Hausa, reported the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group. “Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheiks, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them.”

In December 2020, the U.S. State Department listed Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” for tolerating or engaging in severe violations of religious freedom. 

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