Several Christians have been killed this month by armed Fulani radicals who carried out attacks in the Plateau and Benue states of Nigeria as thousands have died in the escalating violence in the West African country’s Middle Belt in recent years.
Morning Star News reports that three people were murdered in attacks carried out by separate groups of nomadic herding radicals on predominantly Christian farming communities in the last week.
The first attack occurred in the Daffo district of Plateau state last Saturday and another occurred in the Ologba village of the Agatu local government area of Benue state on Monday morning.
In Benue, residents said that two members of a Catholic church were killed in the Agatu community, a majority-Christian farming area where hundreds have been killed and thousands have been displaced by Fulani massacres in recent years.
“My nephew, Oche Alaade, and his friend had come to the village for a visit and were returning to Obagaji town today in the morning where they reside, when they were ambushed by armed Fulani herdsmen, who killed them by cutting off their heads,” Oyaje Sule, the uncle of one of the victims, told the persecution watchdog outlet.
“And because of the nature of their death, the two of them have been buried without their heads.”
A local pastor from Agatu confirmed the murders in WhatsApp messages to The Christian Post this week. He shared a gruesome photograph of one of the victim's whose head was nearly decapitated.
In Plateau, a 30-year-old farmer named Mabur Mallo Gwang from the Maiduna village of Plateau’s Daffo district in the Bokkos local government area was killed on Saturday when four herdsmen attacked him at his home.
“The herdsmen were armed with guns and machetes,” village resident John Machief told Morning Star News. “They forced their way into the victim’s house by shooting and breaking doors into his house.”
The persecution watchdog outlet reports that as many as 40 Christians in the Daffo area have been killed while 11 communities in the region have been destroyed in the past two years.
Another attack in Plateau occurred in the early hours of April 2 when suspected Fulani raided Hukke village and set fire to as many as 30 homes. According to the Christian humanitarian charity Barnabus Aid, seven elderly Christians were murdered in the overnight attack.
"While the attack lasted, for over two hours, a security force came comprising of some policemen,” a Hukke pastor was quoted as telling Barnabas Aid. “They simply stopped at a distance and kept firing in the air and eventually left.”
The attack in Hukke was also confirmed by International Christian Concern, a United States-based persecution watchdog.
ICC reports that on March 31, two villages in the Miango District of Plateau state were attacked by suspected Fulani.
Three more people were reportedly killed in Ancha village, including a pregnant member of the village’s Baptist church and another member of the church. A member of a Methodist church was identified as the third person killed, according to ICC.
Yakubu Kpasa, a local pastor of an evangelical church, told ICC that the attackers also destroyed their church building. He said the entire Ancha village has been vacated.
The village has been attacked multiple times, including a 2017 attack that killed 20 people.
“To see attacks continuing almost three years later in the same village is infuriating,” ICC Regional Manager Nathan Johnson said in a statement. “The government’s complete incompetency is causing many Christians to lose their lives needlessly.”
As previously reported, another Fulani attack in Miango district took place on April 7. Morning Star News reports that a pastor and three churchgoers were killed — including a 10-year-old child.
The Nigerian-based nongovernmental organization International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law (Intersociety) issued a statement last week indicating that at least 50 Nigerian Christians were killed in March with another 10 being killed in the first two days of April by radical Fulani herdsmen.
“In all, not less than 410 Christian lives have been lost in Nigeria to Jihadist Fulani terrorists in the past 93 days of 2020,” Intersociety stressed in its statement.
In a special report issued earlier this year, the group estimated that about 11,500 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since 2015 by Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram and highway bandits.
As displaced communities have complained of little help and support from the Nigerian government, Nigeria was placed on the U.S. State Department’s “special watch list” of countries that are engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom in December.
Additionally, Nigeria is ranked as the 12th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.