Fulani herdsmen on June 3 and 4 killed 46 Christians in attacks on a cluster of villages in
Benue state, Nigeria, sources said.
The herdsmen invaded Imande Mbakange village in the early hours of June 3, killing 28 Christians, according to a press statement from the Shitile Development Association, signed by Samuel Door, SDA president, and Ephraim Zuai, secretary of the association.
On June 4, Fulani herdsmen killed another 18 Christians, six in each of the villages of Michihe, Achamegh and Mbagene Kpav, they said.
“Altogether, 46 Christians were killed by the terrorists in the two days of attacks on our communities,” they said. “Most disturbing also is the fact that the identity of the perpetrators is known to security agencies and the Nigerian government, and yet nothing has been done to end this carnage.”
Those who escaped death have fled the areas, leaving their homes and farmlands for safety, they said.
“As our people are fleeing, herders are occupying these areas and grazing freely on our farms,” the two community leaders said. “Though due to the fear of general insecurity it is difficult to move from village to village to gather exact statistics, hordes of lives have been horrendously eliminated in several villages across the land, such that the whole land is thrown into wailing and mourning.”
Alfred Atera, council official of the Kastina-Ala Local Government Area, confirmed the attacks in a press statement.
“In the early hours of 3 June, there was an attack on Imande Mbakange community and other neighboring communities in Mbacher Council Ward by gunmen believed to be herdsmen, which claimed at least 46 lives and left several others injured and houses burnt with properties worth millions,” Atera said. “These senseless killings by the terrorists are inhuman and barbaric. I call on all security agencies to double their efforts in combating these renewed attacks as a matter of urgency.”
Catherine Anene, spokesperson for the Benue State Police Command, said police had received reports from Katsina-Ala about a break-down of law and order in the area.
“Police personnel and other security agents have been deployed to the area to end the attacks,” Anene said.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.
In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.
“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted. “This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation… Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
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