Nigeria: Christians slaughtered by Fulani militants at baby dedication; children among the dead

A Christian family mourns three relatives killed by armed Fulani herdsmen in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria, in December 2011.
A Christian family mourns three relatives killed by armed Fulani herdsmen in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria, in December 2011. | (Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Over a dozen Christians, including children, were slaughtered by Fulani militants following an infant dedication service in the Nigerian state of Nasarawa.

Morning Star News reports that the attack took place on Palm Sunday as Christians in the predominantly Christian community gathered to eat after the child was dedicated that morning at Ruhaniya Baptist Church in the village.

Fulani militants, who have increasingly targeted Christians, stormed the party and opened fire indiscriminately, killing 17. The militants claimed the life of the baby’s mother, Safaratu John Kabiru Ali, along with several others, some of whom were children as young as 10. The baby’s father, John Kabiru Ali, is currently in critical condition after suffering gunshot wounds.

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A local resident told Morning Star News that among those killed were “10 members of the Ruhaniya Baptist Church, five members of Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ, one member of the Evangelical Church Winning All, and a musician playing for guests.”

Samuel Meshi, chairman of the Akwanga Local Government Council, told the outlet the group of Christians did nothing to provoke the horrific attack.

“They just started shooting sporadically on a community that was just having a feast of the dedication of a child after a church service earlier in the day on Sunday (April 14) at a Baptist church in the area,” Meshi said.

“The killings occurred in the evening of that day. Unfortunately, these persons were killed in cold blood for just no reason,” he noted.

Pastor Samson Gamu Yare, community leader of the Mada ethnic group in Nasarawa state, described the killings as “barbaric” and called on the federal government to urgently take measures toward curtailing the menace of extremist herdsmen attacks on his people.

Nigerian outlet The Punch notes that the governor of Narasawa State, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, has demanded that the perpetrators be apprehended immediately.

“This is something we are going to take seriously. We are going to have a Security Council meeting and I have already directed security operatives to ensure that they fish out these people and bring them to book,” Al-Makura said, according to Channels TV.

Major General Adeyemi Yekini subsequently announced his strategy to track and arrest those involved in the attack.

“I have directed my troops to move to Akwanga and join other security forces to track down the perpetrators of this crisis; let us apprehend them so that justice can be done,” he said.

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.

The Fulani herdsmen are an ethnic group of over 20 million in West and Central Africa. Herders have been known to travel hundreds of miles while carrying weapons to protect their livestock. While they have clashed with indigenous tribes and Christians for centuries, only a small subset are extremists and engage in attacks, according to the Global Terror Index.

However, Open Doors notes that the clashes have intensified in recent years and led to the destruction of houses and churches, as well as the seizure of land and properties belonging to Christian owners. Open Doors concluded that the Nigerian government has historically failed to protect Christians, particularly women and children, from Fulani extremist violence.

Last Easter, Fulani herdsmen carried out an attack on morning Mass at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church in Mbalom, central Nigeria, leaving two priests and at least 17 parishioners dead. About 30 attackers also ransacked a burial ceremony and burned dozens of homes in the community, according to reports.

On March 4, Fulani militants in the Benue state reportedly attacked three villages, killing 23 people with bullets and machetes, according to International Christian Concern.

Also in March, 52 people were killed, dozens injured and around 143 homes were destroyed in attacks on the villages of Inkirimi, Dogonnoma and Ungwan Gora in the Maro district of the Kajuru Local Government Area.

Read more about the Fulani herdsmen and killing of Christians here.

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