Gunmen Kill 100 Christian Villagers in Central Nigeria
While all eyes have been on Nigeria’s northeastern regions where the radical Islamic group Boko Haram is finally being countered by multi-national military forces, violence targeting Christian communities in the group of states across the center of Nigeria, known as the Middle Belt, has increased dramatically. These increased attacks came ahead of Presidential elections on March 28th.
In the early hours of March 15th, in a village near the Cameroon border, Fulani herdsmen slaughtered 100 people, including women and children; the gunmen broke into homes and started shooting unsuspecting victims as they slept in their beds.
A witness who escaped the killings said, “We were still sleeping when they entered our village and started shooting sporadically in all directions, killing every human and animal in sight.” The Fulani destroyed crops and set houses ablaze in what a local priest described as as the worst attack by the herdsmen in four years.
Presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari, an ethnic Fulani, condemned the attack as “killings in cold blood.”
Many Fulani are known to have strong links with regional Islamist movements. They are a largely nomadic tribe scattered across a wide area of central Africa and found in countries from Senegal to Sudan. Since 2011, Fulani raids and targeted killings have taken hundreds of lives, including many victims from Christian communities.
Zangang, in the mainly Christian-populated southern region of Kaduna state, in the northern part of the Middle Belt, has also come under persistent attacks. Zangang is one of the ancestral homes of the mainly Christian Atakad ethnic group, which locals say is falling into the hands of the Fulani invaders as they continue to ravage communities in southern Kaduna.
The murder of the traditional ruler of Zangang, Yohanna Daniel Shinkut, on January 3rd of this year has raised fresh concerns about the rising number of killings in the southern part of Kaduna state since 2011. Elizabeth Shinkut, widow of the late chief, told World Watch Monitor that Fulanis first targeted her husband about three years ago; adding that he narrowly escaped the first attempt on his life in 2013.
“The problem started,” Mrs. Shinkut recalled, “when the Fulani started sending letters to our communities that they were coming to attack us. My husband immediately started mobilizing members of the community to be on their guard. Since that first attack on him, my husband never knew peace again. They burned our house last year, and we are yet to fully recover from that incident, and now they got him this time around.”
“He went to Kafanchan [a southern town in Kaduna State] to pick up a battery for the car. About three hours later, I saw his missed call on my phone; I couldn’t call back immediately because I had no credit on my phone. But after a short while, I heard gun shots. I ran so fast I fell and hurt myself. I managed to get up and ran to where I could load my phone.” She tried several times to call her husband on his cell phone. He did not answer, and the phone seemed to have been switched off. That’s how she and other relatives made the discovery that he’d been killed.
“We got to the car and saw his lifeless body inside,” she continued. “His hands were still on the steering wheel. The car was riddled with bullets from all sides. His body was riddled with bullets. “As we were pushing the car home with the corpse, the Fulani opened fire at us. [Nigerian] soldiers responded by firing back at them, and we ran to the bush.”
‘‘We are a peaceful people. We don’t know what we have done to these people. We have been praying to God to touch their hearts and stop these killings and destruction.” Every family in the community has a story about loved ones who were killed, their homes being destroyed and escaping from being killed.
Enock Andong, another community leader in Kaduna State, explained that the attacks normally go unchallenged, whether taking place in the night or the day. He also stated that the Fulanis have sophisticated weapons that can only be supplied by the military. He reported that although the security agencies have been trying their best, the hilly terrain of the area has been a challenge to the special military task force deployed to the southern part of Kaduna state since the post-election violence in 2011.
“The Fulanis come from Ganaruwa, kill our people, burn our houses and run back. They have destroyed all economic activity in our communities as people have run away from their homes. There is also impending hunger because victims of the attacks no longer go to their farms as it is not safe.” Schools, churches, and homes, along with farmlands and grazing areas have been leveled, further devastating village life. Andong declared that the only way to address the problem was through collaboration between the authorities in Kaduna and Plateau states.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we lift before Your gracious and compassionate presence our fellow Christians in central Nigeria who are under attack from Fulani extremists. Where they have lost family and friends, we pray for Your comfort to surround them. Where they are suffering injury, we pray for Your healing touch. Where they have lost homes, fields and cattle, we pray for Your provision over them; that You will provide shelter and food. And where there is hopelessness and where faith is weak, we pray that You will strengthen their faith and give them hope, not only in the life to come, but in the peace of Your presence with them in this life. And we pray for the Fulani; that God’s mercy will deliver them from spiritual darkness into the light of Christ. In the name of Jesus, our rock, our fortress and our deliverer, Amen.