Nigeria: Terrorist attacks surged in December and may increase in 2021, Christian group warns

Screenshot of a video released by the Islamic State West Africa Province showing the killings of five kidnapped Nigerian Christians.
Screenshot of a video released by the Islamic State West Africa Province showing the killings of five kidnapped Nigerian Christians. | Intersociety

Radical Islamic militants and terrorist groups killed at least 200 people in the last two weeks of December, bringing the number of Nigerian Christians killed in 2020 to 2,400, according to a new report.

Nigerian human rights group The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law released the report on Sunday that catalogs the killings. Intersociety’s founder and chairman of the board, Emeka Umeagbalasi, told The Christian Post that this December was one of the deadliest months on record for Nigerian Christians.

“We’ve noticed an upsurge in the killings. At least one of the reasons that I haven’t relocated to my village [for Christmas is] just to monitor what is going on,” he said. “The local media is operating under censorship.”

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This recent wave of killings follows a pattern of radical Islamist violence in Nigeria, he said. Since 2009, over 34,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed and many more have been displaced by the violence.

Militants murdered seven Christians every day in 2020 on average, said Umeagbalasi. Nigeria’s Southern Kaduna province experienced the most deaths, with at least 495 people killed by radical Islamists.

In one incident, Islamic militants stopped cars on a highway, he said. At gunpoint, they interrogated travelers to discover if they were Christian. Then, they forced the Christians from their cars. They killed five who attempted escape and kidnapped the remaining 35.

Kidnappings of Christians happen for various reasons, Umeagbalasi said. Some are motivated by money, some are political attacks by the government, some are motivated by Islamic radicalism. Most people kidnapped by Islamic radicals face death or slavery.

Some of the death count from December includes abducted people presumed dead, Umeagbalasi said. When terrorist groups like Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants kidnap people, they either kill them or make ransom demands. In many of last month’s cases, the kidnappers sent no ransom demands.

Terrorist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province made a vow to step up attacks on Christians over Christmas, Umeagbalasi said. The groups called Christmas celebrations “ungodly.”

In December, Boko Haram killed at least 130 Christians, the report said. Fulani tribe Islamist militias killed at least 70.

Some of Intersociety’s sources say terrorist groups have attacked more fiercely because they believe Joe Biden’s presidential administration will not advocate for religious freedom in Nigeria, Umeagbalasi said. The Obama administration focused less on fighting Nigerian terrorism than the Trump administration did.

“Once Biden comes [into office], he will give them license to kill,” said Umeagblalasi. “That is also the thinking of the present government of Nigeria.”

Umeagbalasi said that Nigeria’s government supports or ignores radical Islamist killings. On Dec. 17, Islamists killed a family of eight in the Gora Gan community. The family’s home was in front of a military barracks.  

“If the Fulani jihadis can attack and wipe out a family of eight located opposite a military base where soldiers are stationed, it tells you there’s very strong evidence of the conspiratorial nature of the military and the jihadis,” he said.

In 2021, Islamist attacks on Nigerian Christians will probably increase, Umeagbalasi said.

“We are seeing the continuation and consolidation of the attacks on Christians. There is no hope on the ground that suggests otherwise,” he said. “The security forces are disproportionately composed of Muslims. The Christians are not likely to get protection. Don’t expect the government to do anything.”

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