Student Counters Official Version of Eight Christians Killed in Zamfara State, Nigeria

Muslim students had long sought to kill Christian student, he says.

Zamfara state, Nigeria. (Wikipedia)

Zamfara state, Nigeria. (Wikipedia)

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Contrary to the state government version of an attack in northwestern Nigeria last week, a Christian at the school where Muslim students killed eight people said all the victims were Christians.

The Christian student told Morning Star News by phone that the Christian student at Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, in Talata Mafara, Zamfara state, who was said to have triggered the Aug. 22 attack by blaspheming the prophet of Islam, was falsely accused.

“The claim that our colleague blasphemed Muhammad is not true,” he said of the convert who was badly beaten and left for dead. “He has been the target of Muslims here, as they believe that anyone who leaves Islam must be killed.”

The source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said he could not reveal the name of the assaulted student in order to protect him from further violence.

“When the Muslim mob left thinking they had killed him, one of us assisted by moving him to the hospital in town,” he said, with “us” referring to Christian students at the school. “However, when these Muslim students heard that our colleague was still alive and had been moved to the hospital, they rushed to the hospital with the intent to kill him. But when they could not find him there, they rushed to the house were other Christian students were staying and burned eight of them alive.”

Published reports do not agree on how the student was removed from the hospital before the assailants arrived. The source who spoke to Morning Star News said only that the attacked student was not in the house that was burned, adding that the charred house is an off-campus residence near the polytechnic that accommodates students.

Contrary to Nigerian news reports that the house of a Muslim who helped take the injured student to the hospital was burned, the student told Morning Star News that no other house was burned, and that the man who rescued and took the victim to the hospital was a Christian. His account could not be verified as of this writing.

In response to the public outcry over the killings and the threat of religious conflict, Zamfara Gov. Abdul’aziz Yabubakar Yari said last week that all those killed were Muslims. Citing intelligence from security agencies, he said a fight between two students at the school led to one accusing the other of speaking ill of Muhammad, and that other students came and beat the alleged blasphemer, whom he said was either a Muslim or a Christian.

“Some people are saying he was a Muslim, and some say the boy was a Christian,” Yari told Nigerian newspaper The Nation. “They beat the student until he collapsed and thought he was dead.”

Yari reportedly said security personnel used a shop owner’s car to take the student to the hospital. When the assailants didn’t find the alleged blasphemer at the hospital, he reportedly said, they burned down the “shop of the person who gave his car to rescue the boy.”

“That was how everybody in the house was killed, and all the people killed in the house were Muslims, and not like the rumors going around in the social media that Christians are being killed in Zamfara,” he reportedly said.

Other reports claim a Muslim bystander took the injured student to the hospital, with one version saying he only loaned his car to take him, and that the assailants therefore burned his house, killing eight people therein. The Christian student who spoke to Morning Star News refuted these claims.

Nigeria’s primary Muslim group, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, condemned the attacks.

“The unfortunate attacks that ensued thereafter the alleged blasphemy of the Prophet … are criminal and also stand condemned,” JNI Secretary-General Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu said in a press statement, adding that individual Muslims do not have the authority to define heresy or label someone as an apostate. “The nasty behavior of some miscreants should not be misconstrued as the Islamic teaching.”

A week before the killings, the Anglican bishop of Gusau Diocese had decried persecution that Christians in the state have faced. The Rev. John Garba Danbita told Nigerian newspaper Leadership that Christians cannot freely worship without harassment, and that a previous state administration had seized an Anglican property.

“We have nowhere to lay our complaint or report the problem with integrity and rights and privileges in the state as fellow citizens of one Nigeria and in fact the rightful owner of the land,” he told Leadership.

He added that in 2011, Emmanuel Anglican Church and its pastor’s house were burned in Tsafe town, and another church was recently demolished.

“St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Gusau, has now been demolished by ZUREPB [Zamfara State Urban and Rural Environmental Protection Board] on the instruction of His Excellency, Alhaji Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, our governor,” he said. “There was no notice of demolition served on us but only to be told that they mobilized policemen and civil defense personnel to escort the demolishers of our church.”

Zamfara in 2000 was the first of nine northern states in Nigeria to institute sharia (Islamic law). Three other northern states have implemented sharia in parts of their states.

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