Gunmen suspected of being Fulani herdsmen have burned a pastor and his family alive and razed as many as 95 homes in an attack on a village in the Plateau State of Nigeria.
The Rev. Adamu Gyang Wurim, his wife and three children were murdered in the attack that took place in the Barkin Ladi local government area. The perpetrators are also said to have burned down Wurim's church, according to Daily Post Nigeria.
Wurim is a priest with the Church of Christ in Nations denomination and pastored a church in the Abonong village in Foron District. The Nigerian news outlet notes that the pastor and his family were killed while they were taking refuge in their home during the attack. The suspected gunmen killed them by setting their house on fire.
As many as three other people were killed during the attack, according to Peter Gyendeng, a lawmaker representing the area in the state legislature.
"There were attacks in my constituency by suspected Fulani herdsmen killing eight persons including a pastor and his wife and three children burned down in Abonong village and also one person killed in Dorowa while two still missing," Gyendeng was quoted as saying.
Isaac Choji, an eye witness of the attack, told the Nigerian daily newspaper The Nation that gunmen came in large numbers and surrounded the pastor's home.
After setting the pastor's home and other buildings on fire, Choji said, the gunmen waited to ensure that no survivors would escape the engulfed homes. The witness said that a female neighbor was also shot by the gunmen. She was injured and taken to a nearby hospital.
The Nation reports that Wurim and his family have all been buried in the same grave by church members and relatives.
Thomas Tsok, chairman of the Foron branch of the Berom Youth Movement, told The Guardian that the attackers were armed with machetes and AK47 assault rifles. They were said to have invaded the pastor's village at around 8 p.m. and fired their weapons sporadically.
"They first shot at two young men walking out of the village where they had gone to charge their phones in the pastor's house, killing one and wounding the other," Tsok was quoted as saying.
Violence against the pastor, his family and village has become increasingly common in Nigeria.
As previously reported, thousands of Christians have been killed in the last year and many other believers have lost their churches, homes and loved ones.
Last month, the Christian Association of Nigeria and church denominational heads in Plateau State declared that "over 6,000 persons, mostly children, women and the aged have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen" in 2018.
Earlier this summer, Fulani herdsman killed 120 Christians leaving a funeral of the father of one of the founding clergy of the Church of Christ in Nations in the Plateau State.
The leaders begged the United Nations and international community to intervene to protect the vulnerable community from violence believed to be perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen — a community of nomadic herders.
There has been some debate, however, over whether attacks by Fulani herdsmen are religious in nature. The Nigerian government and some in the Western media are of the opinion that the Fulani attacks against certain communities are simply clashes between farmers and cattle herders.
However, others — such as the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law — maintain that Islamists are spreading jihad in the Fulani community.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chairman of Intersociety, told The Christian Post this month that there is evidence to suggest that violence carried out by Fulani groups are aimed at eliminating Christianity from the region.
Christians in the country also have to worry about the existence of the Boko Haram terrorist outfit in the northeast part of the country. Boko Haram is a group that affiliates itself with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and has proven at times to be even more deadly.
Most recently, Leah Sharibu, a 15-year-old Christian girl kidnapped by Boko Haram in February, can be heard in a newly released audio recording in which she beggs for help.
Sheribu was reportedly among a group of over 100 classmates who were kidnapped by the terror group from their school earlier this year. While her classmates were later released, Sheribu is reportedly still being held because of her refusal to renounce her faith in Christ.
Nigeria ranks as the 14th-worst nation in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA's World Watch List.
Earlier this month, attackers stormed a church in the Igabi local government area of the Kaduna state and killed a Baptist pastor and kidnapped his wife.
The attack in Kaduna occurred just days after a Catholic priest was killed by suspected robbers while shopping at a grocery store near the nation's capital of Abuja.