ISWAP executes 5 Nigerian aid workers in a video warning to Christians

Christians faithfuls hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. |

Militants aligned with the Islamic State in Nigeria have executed five aid workers, declaring in a video posted online that the killings were meant as a warning to “all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity.”

A video surfaced last Wednesday showing the men kneeling while blindfolded and then shot from behind by AK-47-wielding masked militants in the West African country’s terror-ridden Borno state. The execution is said to have taken place two Sundays ago.

The abduction and killing of the men have since been claimed by the Islamic State in West Africa Province, an offshoot group of the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram. 

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, ISWAP claimed responsibility through its digital newspaper, al-Naba.

Morning Star News, a nonprofit that monitors acts of Christian persecution overseas, reports that three of the men shot from behind were identified as Christians by a resident of Borno. The two others executed in the video were said to be Muslims. In the 35-second video, a jihadi is reported to have condemned Christianity. 

“This is a message to all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity,” a militant was quoted as saying in the Hausa language, as translated by Morning Star News. 

“We want you out there to understand that those of you being used to convert Muslims to Christianity are only being used for selfish purposes.”

The jihadi went on to say that “is the reason whenever we capture you.”

“[T]hey don’t care to rescue you or work toward securing your release from us, and this is because they don’t need you or value your lives,” the militant was quoted as saying.  “We, therefore, call on you to return to Allah by becoming Muslims. We shall continue to block all routes [highways] you travel.”

The militant warned that if others don’t “heed our warning,” the “fate of these five individuals will be your fate.”

Speaking with Morning Star News, a Borno resident identified the three Christians killed in the video as Ishaku Yakubu, an aid worker with Action Against Hunger and member of the Church of the Brethren; Luka Filibus, an aid worker with International Rescue Committee; and Joseph Prince, a private security firm worker who was a member of the Redeemed Christian Church in Maiduguri. 

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed the killings and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. Buhari also confirmed that the five men were aid workers affiliated with Action Against Hunger, the International Rescue Committee, REACH International and Nigeria’s State Emergency Management Agency. 

According to The New York Times, the men were traveling between the city of Maiduguri and Monguno when they were abducted in June. 

The new video is the latest execution video released by the Islamic State-aligned militants in Nigeria. 

In January, another video surfaced showing the execution of the Rev. Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s chapter in the Michika local government area of the Adamawa State. Andimi was reportedly executed after refusing to deny Christ. 

Also in January, another video showed an ISWAP child soldier executing a 22-year-old Christian student. 

Last December, another ISWAP video showed the extremist faction purporting to kill 11 Christian aid workers in what it called a “message [for] to the Christians in the world.”

Religious freedom activists worldwide have denounced the execution of the five aid workers. 

“ISWAP’s execution of aid workers is beyond reprehensible,” Tony Perkins, vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and prominent Washington-based social conservative activists, said in a statement. 

“The militant Islamic group shows no remorse as it continues to target civilians based on their faith, such as Leah Sharibu who was abducted by Boko Haram over two years ago.”

USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie, vice president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, said that ISWAP and Boko Haram represent “neither the history nor the future of Islam in Africa.” 

“Their violent actions are a disgrace to the region’s vibrant Islamic heritage, and they must be countered by strong, inclusive partnerships between African nations and the international community, including the U.S. government,” Davie said. 

In 2016, ISWAP split from Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist insurgency that has caused havoc in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region since 2002. ISWAP also declared its allegiance to the Islamic State, which at the time held territory in Iraq and Syria. 

Over the years, the two groups have killed and abducted thousands of people. According to the United Nations, over 3.4 million people have been displaced in northeast Nigeria.  

Boko Haram has developed a reputation as one of the world’s deadliest extremist groups that is responsible for making tens of thousands of people widows and orphans

The U.N. reported in April that the decade-long crisis in the northeast alone has left over 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

The Nigerian government has faced criticism from international rights advocates who claim that it is not doing enough to prevent and halt the violence committed by Boko Haram and ISWAP in the northeast as well as the ongoing atrocities committed by radical Fulani herdsmen against predominantly Christian farming communities in the north-central states.

Advocates are calling for the appointment of a U.S. State Department special envoy to monitor the violence in Nigeria and across the Lake Chad region. A growing coalition of rights groups are warning of potential “genocidal” implications of actions are taken to thwart the violence. 

A new report published this week by the International Committee on Nigeria, a U.S.-based nonprofit working to secure a future for all Nigerians, includes testimonies of some of the over 60,000 victims of violence in Nigeria. The report features researched compiled and produced by the collaborative efforts of ICON and the International Organization on Peace-building & Social Justice.

“The ongoing violence and brutality perpetrated against innocent Nigerians by Islamist terrorists like Boko Haram and Fulani Militants has to stop; it’s that simple,” ICON co-founder Stephen Enada said in a statement. “President Buhari and his administration are attempting to dictate the narrative and condition the world, really, to believe that Nigeria’s Christians are safe from terrorism, which is simply untrue, as our report verifies. A U.S. Special Envoy is key to turning things around in Nigeria.”

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