As many as 106 people died on Feb 15, in Izghe village near the Cameroon border after suspected an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria members, dressed in uniforms, surrounded the village in trucks and motorcycles. They separated the Christians from the Muslims before killing the believers. The assailants shot some and slit the throats of others; then looted local businesses and escaped into the wilderness.
Security forces were reportedly not present in the town at the time of the attack. A later field report stated that scores of bodies were still littering the streets of the village, as the few remaining residents were too afraid to gather and bury them. Both Muslims and Christians have fled. Only the elderly who were unable to run away remained behind.
During the preceding week, the government was conducting aerial bombardments of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria hideouts near Izghe and neighboring villages as part of its campaign against the Islamist insurgency. Though President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of Emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states last May, his government is currently facing increasing criticism for its failure to root out the rebels.
Even prior to the deadly Feb. 15 attack, according to the Christian Elders Forum of Northern States, an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria rebels had already killed at least 367 people in 22 separate incidents during the first six weeks of 2014. “Not a week has gone by this year that our Christian brothers and sisters in northern Nigeria have not been threatened, beaten and murdered,” said a forum statement, signed by its chairman, Olaiya Phillips, and national secretary, Emmanuel Danjuma Subilim.
2014 has begun in a devastatingly violent fashion in northeastern Nigeria, prompting Christian organizations to renew their pleas for better government security. There have been attacks on Christian churches and individual families, as well as random attacks on villages. In one case, a homemade bomb exploded as a bus drove over it. While some of the attacks have indiscriminately harmed people of various faiths, many of the attacks have specifically targeted Christians, as in the Feb. 15 assault.
In the shocking Jan. 26 attack on St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Adamawa state, militants stormed the building during mass and blocked the main door, before detonating homemade bombs and opening fire on the helpless congregation. The assailants slit the throats of some of their victims. “My brother was slaughtered like [a] ram,” Moses Yohanna told the Associated Press. “The intruders locked the church, fired guns at those trying to flee, and cut the throats of others,” the Catholic bishop of Yola, Stephen Dami Mamza, told the BBC. “They set off bombs, and for the next four hours, burned houses and took hostages.”
Four days later, militants burst into an evening prayer service at the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and started shooting. The pastor and 10 members of the congregation were killed. The attackers attempted to burn the village, but were driven away by armed residents, including youth.
Members of both the local government and the church community in NE Nigeria have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to bring an end to the attacks. BBC reported two weeks ago that the Governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, called for more troops to combat an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria. He told media, “Frankly speaking, officers and men of the Nigerian army and the Nigerian police force are doing their best given the circumstances, but you and I know that an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria are better armed and better motivated.”
The Christian Elders Forum of Northern States called on Nigeria’s federal and state governments to “fulfill their obligation as enshrined in the constitution, and guarantee the protection of all Nigerians and their freedom to worship in safety.” It insisted that, “none of the Armed Service Chiefs should sleep until Nigerians of all faiths in Borno State can sleep.”
Separately, the Christian Association of Nigeria issued a communique on Feb. 12 stating that across Nigeria’s northeastern and central states, gory stories of killings by shooting and the burning of Christian houses and their churches remain the same.
Reading from the communique, Association General Secretary Rev. Musa Asake said, “The federal government should come up with an efficient and enduring system that can overwhelm the resurgence of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria gunmen and The Fulani are a large ethnic group in West Africa. A third of all Fulani people are pastoralists, making them the largest nomadic community in the world. herdsmen who are prowling villages, shooting and killing innocent Christians, particularly those living in the northern part of Nigeria.”
Sources: AFS, The Telegraph, Al-Jazeera, BBC, Associated Press, World Watch Monitor
Father, the Christians of northern Nigeria have suffered so much in recent years. We pray that Your comfort would surround Your children who have survived the horrors of the recent attack in Izghe. Heal their wounds and mend the torn places of grief in their souls. Grant them the grace to enter each new day with the confidence of Your presence with them, no matter the circumstances. And grant them grace and wisdom to respond to these sufferings in ways that bring honor to the name of Christ. We pray especially for church leaders, that they shepherd their people in the midst of the terror that must surely fill them. Urge the government to action, and empower them to protect the people of northern Nigeria. In the name of Jesus, in whose name they suffer and from whom they receive comfort. Amen.