JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – As violence against Christians hit in central Nigeria again this week, there are indications that Muslim Fulani herdsmen are working with Islamic extremist groups made up in part of foreigners.
The Rev. Yiman Orkwar, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Makurdi in Benue state, told Morning Star News that Fulani herdsmen seem to have joined forces with Islamic extremist groups. "From all indications, the terrorism being witnessed in the country is purely in pursuit of Jihad," Orkwar said. "In Benue state, Fulani terrorists in collaboration with Boko Haram and other foreign mercenaries are causing wanton destruction of lives and property."
Boko Haram, a Nigerian rebel group that includes mercenaries from Chad, Niger and Cameroon, seeks to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, and the terrorist organization has ties to Al Qaeda. Ethnic Fulani herdsmen, some of them from outside of Nigeria, are carrying out their assaults in military camouflage and armed with sophisticated weapons.
On Tuesday night (Dec. 17) in central Nigeria’s Plateau state, a group of eight such gunmen killed six members of extended families in their home in Foron, five of them children.
In the slaughter in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, the Muslim Fulani herdsmen in military camouflage also wore bullet-proof vests, Christian survivors said. Deborah Stephen, 28, lost her 4-year-old son, Promise Stephen, she told Morning Star News. Her daughter, Mary Stephen, 6, was in critical condition at a hospital.
Stephen was away on a business trip when the gunmen broke into the home she shares with other relatives at about 9 p.m., she said. She had called her family just 20 minutes before the slaughter to let them know she would return the next morning; she rushed back to the village that night after learning of the attack.
“I found out that Miracle Ishaya [2 years old, killed in the attack] had his intestines spilled on his bed as he was shot in his stomach,” Stephen said. “I was also told by relatives that the Muslim gunmen who attacked our home were eight, and that they wore military camouflage and bullet- proof vests.”
Also killed were Bidami Ishaya, 10; Jerry Dalyop, 8; Izine Emeka, 6; and John David, 30, she said. Contrary to official statements that a married couple and their four children were killed in the attack, Stephen said David was the only adult killed in the onslaught.
Besides Stephen’s daughter, also wounded were Dalyop Gyang, 40, and Titi Gyang, 65. Stephen said Titi Gyang is her mother.
At Plateau State Specialist Hospital in Jos, Stephen told Morning Star News that she and her children were members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Kuru Jenta, while her mother and other Christian victims were members of Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in Foron Junction.
Her 6-year-old daughter underwent a second surgery on Friday (Dec. 20).
Dominic Esin, a spokesman for the Plateau Police Command, confirmed the deadly attack to Morning Star News.
Also in Barkin Ladi, on Dec. 14 Fulani herdsmen attacked the predominantly Christian town of Gwol, killing two Christians and wounding a third, 23-year-old Chom Philip, who is also receiving treatment at the Specialist Hospital in Jos. From his hospital bed he told Morning Star News that the attack took place at about 7 p.m.
“I had gone out to a nearby kiosk to our house to buy phone card for my mobile phone when the Muslim gunmen suddenly began shooting us,” Philip said. “When I was hit by the bullets, I crawled under a parked car, and that was how I survived the attack. The other two Christians, whose names I do not know, were killed instantly.”
Philip said he is a member of the COCIN congregation at Nding-Loh, Barkin Ladi. He told Morning Star News that his father, Philip Gyang Pam, had been killed by Muslim gunmen in 2001 in Nding-Loh.
In Tixkan village, also in Barkin Ladi, Muslim herdsmen on Dec. 11 killed four other Christians, according to the Rev. Pam Jang Pam of the COCIN in Foron. He identified them as Garos Bitrus, Nzang Bitrus, Davou Bitrus, and Simon Magit.
Emmanuel Loman, a Christian leader in Barkin Ladi, told Morning Star News that the several months of such attacks have devastated Christian communities in the area.
“This is a very sad development,” Loman said. “How long will these attacks continue?”
Plateau officials on Nov. 24 had alerted Christians that Muslim extremists planned to carry out massive attacks on Christians in Jos and in other parts of the state during Christmas and New Year celebrations. Gov. Jonah Jang sounded the alert while speaking during a worship service at COCIN headquarters in Jos.
“Recent security reports available to the government point to the fact that some terrorists want to take the advantage of this Christmas to attack Plateau,” Jang said. “We must be watchful; we must not go to sleep, because keeping peace is not the job of government alone. We must report suspicious characters in our midst, and that’s the only way we can defeat them.”
Islamic extremist marauders have long attacked Christians in Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Taraba and Adamawa states. In Kaduna state in northern Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen dressed in military fatigues on Dec. 12 attacked the Christian community of Bara in Sanga Local Government Area, said Dan Amos, chairman of the Sanga Local Government Council.
The assailants wounded security guards keeping watch over the house of the late Gen. Luka Yusuf, a Christian who served in the Nigerian Army.
“I received a distress call around 1 a.m., and I immediately contacted the police and the military,” Amos told Morning Star News. “They quickly went to the village to repel the Muslim Fulani gunmen. The Muslim Fulani herdsmen were dressed in full military uniform and were armed with dangerous weapons. The intervention of military personnel and the police saved the villagers.”
Amos said there have been several attacks on Christian communities in the area.
“Only two weeks ago, some Christian communities in this area were attacked, and now this very unfortunate incident,” he said. “We are determined to put an end to the recurring attack on defenseless Christian communities. These unprovoked attacks must be stopped.”
Benue State Crisis
In Benue state, in the southern part of Nigeria’s middle belt, Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Oct. 20 attacked Christian communities in the Guma Local Government Area, killing 22 Christian peasant farmers and destroying property. Christian leaders report that about 40,000 Christian rural dwellers have been displaced in about 110 Christian villages of Mbalagh, Agan, Ayaka, Torkula, Yogbo and Udei, all in the Guma area.
Aondongu John, 11, and Gabriel Bazo, 45, of Mbangwen village, told Morning Star News that they had to flee their village when Muslim attackers invaded. Mwuese Tyosue, 45, a mother of five children from Mbalagh village, lost her husband in one of the attacks by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
“I am now a widow, but my concern is how to take care of my children,” she said.
Augustine Igor, 40, a Pentecostal pastor with the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries in the area, told Morning Star News that the ministry has been assisting some of the displaced Christians by providing them with clothing and food items.
“There are about 120 Christian villagers displaced by the attacks right here with us,” Igor said. “We give them rice, yams and clothes. I am really pained by what is happening. We will continue to pray and hope that someday God will hear our prayers and bring these attacks on Christians to and end.”
From July 5 to July 7, Fulani Muslim herdsmen killed 60 Christians in Guma area villages, displacing about 7,000 Christians, church leaders said. Frank Usa Adii, chairman of the Guma Local Government Council, told Morning Star News that most of the displaced are women, children and the elderly.
“Christians are being attacked and killed every now and then in the villages,” he said. “The situation is bad because we actuallly have a serious refugee situation in our hands at the moment, considering that over 7,000 persons have been displaced by these attacks.”
The Christian Lawyers’ Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) lamented continuing attacks by rampaging Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Christian communities in Plateau, Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa and Kaduna states. Sunny Akanni, president of CLASFON, expressed sadness over the attacks.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
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