Attacks by Islamic Extremists in Nigeria Leave at Least 28 Christians Dead

Fulani herdsmen, suicide bomber ring in new year with violence in three states.

Ministry leader Joseph Kamida Cham: Two other churches close to ECWA church. (Morning Star News)

Ministry leader Joseph Kamida Cham: Two other churches close to ECWA church. (Morning Star News)

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani gunmen on Friday (Jan. 2) killed 15 Christians in an area of Kaduna state where 10 others were killed on Dec. 27, ending a week of violence in Nigeria in which at least 28 died.

The ethnic Fulani herdsmen killed the 15 Christians in Ambe-Madaki village, in Kaduna’s Sanga Local Government Area, in an attack that began at about 4 a.m., sources said. On Dec. 27 in Tattaura village of the same area, Muslim Fulanis killed 10 Christians.

In yesterday’s assault, the Muslim Fulani gunmen shot villagers and set fire to their houses, a local resident, Yohanna Adamu, told Morning Star News by phone. He said many other Christians remained missing, and scores of others sustained injuries.

“Many of our people are missing, and more than 20 houses have been burned down,” he said. “We are all members of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ.”

On New Year’s Eve in Plateau state, Muslim Fulani gunmen at about 8:30 a.m. attacked the Christian community of Kantoma, Mangu Local Government Area, killing three members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), residents told Morning Star News. Area resident Ulama Joseph said by phone that Muslim Fulani herdsmen carried out the attack as the Christians were preparing for New Year’s festivities.

“The attackers came from a Muslim Fulani settlement around the area,” he said, adding that the assailants beheaded one of the three Christians killed, taking the head with them as they fled. The assault has caused panic among area Christians, most of them COCIN members.

Mark Lipdo, executive director of the Stefanos Foundation, said in a text message to Morning Star News that Christian residents of Kantoma village had sent him a distress call about Muslim Fulani gunmen shooting at them.

“I received distressed calls from the villagers asking that help be rendered to them as they were being attacked by Fulani gunmen,” Lipdo said. “They said that unless that came to them, they could be exterminated completely.”

Intervention by security agents helped reduce casualties, he said.

Abu Emmanuel, a police spokesman for the Plateau State Command, confirmed the attack.

“The Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed three villagers and beheaded one of them,” he told Morning Star News. “They took the man’s head away with them, leaving his lifeless body.”

The police spokesman said investigation into the attack had begun and urged residents to remain calm as security agents would provide protection.

Prior Attack in Kaduna

In the attack on Tattaura village in Sanga Local Government Area, Muslim Fulani gunmen on the night of Dec. 27 killed 10 Christians and wounded five others as the Christians were holding Christmas celebrations after 10 p.m., said Mike Maikarfi, one of the pastors of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC).

Maikarfi gave the names of those killed as Joel Ambo, Yakubu Ambi, Yamu Idzi, Anche Ishaku, Misalai Ngbo, Ishaya Anche, Monday Samson, Joel Anzah, Jonathan Anche and one known as P-Square.

A villager who narrowly escaped told Morning Star News by phone that five others were wounded.

“The attackers invaded our village as we were all celebrating Christmas,” he said. “They killed 10 and injured five other members of our church. Those injured during the attack are receiving treatment at the Akwanga General Hospital, in Nasarawa state.”

The attack comes six months after a similar assault on Nandu Akpong village, near Tattaura; in that June 23 attack, 19 Christians were killed.

A Tattaura community leader, Mike Sanga, told Morning Star News that those killed on Dec. 27 were buried on Monday (Dec. 29).

“Muslim Fulani herdsmen carried out both attacks,” Sanga said.

Another village resident, Thomas Adams, said Christmas celebrations in the area usually begin on Christmas Eve and last up to the first week of January. Festivities include singing carols in churches and outreaches in open fields, where worshippers give praises for the birth of Jesus Christ through song and dance.

“At about 10 p.m. the Fulani herdsmen, armed with sophisticated weapons, invaded our village,” Adams said. “Ten Christians were killed on the spot, and five others sustained injuries from gunshots.”

Kaduna State Police Commissioner Umar Shehu, confirmed the attack but said no arrests have been made. He added that soldiers and policemen have been drafted to the village to offer protection to survivors.

Gombe Suicide Bomber

In Gombe, capital of the state of the same name, a suicide bomber injured at least eight Christians guarding a New Year’s Day prayer service.

Stationed at a security checkpoint located about the length of a football field from the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) building, two of the injured Christians were seriously injured and underwent surgery at Gombe Specialist Hospital, an eyewitness told Morning Star News.

“Two of the Christians are in critical condition and were taken into the hospital’s surgery theatre,” he said.

Believed to be a member or sympathizer of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, which has seized 20 towns in three states bordering Gombe state, the suicide bomber on a motorcycle carried Improvised Explosive Devices that detonated as Christians were in the church praying.

“He was stopped by a team of Boys Brigade members and some church elders who were keeping watch,” the eyewitness said. “It was while they were trying to prevent him from getting into the church that the suicide bomber detonated the bomb, killing himself and injuring 10 of the Christians who stopped him.”

Gombe resident Joseph Kamida Cham, president of Urban Frontiers Mission, told Morning Star News that there are two other churches close to the ECWA building.

“The suicide bomber targeted one of the churches where I worship in Tudun Wada Gombe,” Cham said in an email. “There are three churches side-by-side, ECWA Gospel, ECWA 3 and COCIN. COCIN and ECWA 3 are on the opposite side of the road that the bomber took; it is also the only access road into the communities behind the Gombe State University. The road is usually barricaded on Christmas and the New Year’s Day, when the service is going on.”

In the tense atmosphere that churches in the northeast have seen in the past two years, the road had been closed to traffic as early as 5:30 a.m. for the service scheduled to begin 9 a.m., he said.

“Therefore, even those going to church have to be checked,” Cham said. “By the time he came to the spot, already others were using an alternative route provided and there were others in front of him. Therefore it wasn’t an act of ignorance.”

Cham was leaving his home for the service when he saw and heard a loud explosion about 100 meters from the churches, he said.

“The only casualty is the suicide bomber, as he was torn into pieces,” he said. “He stopped and greeted the Boys Brigade that were stationed at the point alongside the police; after the explosion, the particles affected eight Christians. Two had serious injuries, while others had minor injuries and shock from the blast.”

Most of those affected had only minor injuries, he said.

Another native of Gombe confirmed the bomb attack, adding that the assailants began their activities on New Year’s Eve, when a female suicide bomber tried to attack the city’s military barracks. Soldiers reportedly fired on her when she refused to heed an order to stop, detonating the belt of explosives she had hidden under her covering. On the same day in neighboring Yobe state, in a village near Potiskum, an explosion on a bus killed seven people.

Police in Gombe confirmed the explosion on the road to the ECWA church. Police spokesman Fwaje Atajiri said in a press statement that the suicide bomber rode on a motorcycle and tried to enter the church at about 9 a.m.

“He came with a motorcycle and tried to enter the place, but as a result of the security measures put in place, he was blocked and the bomb exploded instantly and he was killed,” the police spokesman said.

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