Armed Fulani herders launched a series of attacks during a 24-hour curfew in a predominantly Christian area in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, killing about 33 people and burning down dozens of homes, according to reports.
While police said Fulani gunmen killed 21 villagers, local community leaders put the death toll at 33 in the attacks on five villages, according to AFP.
The attacks took place in the Atyap Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which said armed men traveling in trucks killed six people and burned 20 homes in Apiashyim village, and killed seven people in Kibori village.
Locals reported the attack while it was still going on in Apiashyim, but personnel arrived only after the attack was over, a survivor told local media.
The Fulani men then attacked the Atakmawei community, killing 12 people and burning down 10 homes. Later, they killed three people in Apyiako village and five in Magamiya village, burning down several houses in both locations, CSW said.
A truck resembling an armored military vehicle and military motorcycles drove into the Apyiako village square while the attack was underway, but no attempt was made to stop the destruction, according to survivors, CSW reported.
Fulani herders routinely attack predominantly Christian farming communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. While some believe the nomadic herders launch attacks as they look for grazing pastures, the radicals are known for targeting Christian villages in a similar manner as the Boko Haram terror group that terrorizes the northern regions of the country.
“The fact that these attacks continue is a damning indictment of Governor el Rufai’s decision to extend the duration and scope of a 24-hour curfew that had manifestly failed,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said. “Instead of protecting villagers, the curfew not only subjects them to privations, but also makes them sitting targets for militia who continue to attack at will.
“The disturbing allegations of survivors regarding the failure of security personnel to intervene in ongoing violence and apprehend the perpetrators require swift, transparent and independent verification.”
In a special report, titled “Nigeria: A Killing Field of Defenseless Christians,” released earlier this year, the Anambra-based nongovernmental organization International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law estimated that about 11,500 Christians had been killed in Nigeria since 2015 by Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, and highway bandits.
Nigeria was added to the U.S. State Department’s “special watch list” of countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom and is ranked as the 12th worst country in the world for Christian persecution by Open Doors USA.