At least 1,000 Christians killed in Nigeria during 2019 - report

At least 1,000 Christians have been killed by Fulani and Boko Haram militants in Nigeria this year, a new NGO report warns.

The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), led by Baroness Cox, said that the persecution of Christians had been particularly bad in northern and central Nigeria. 

In addition to deadly attacks, the report, called "Your Land or Your Body", warns that Christians are also being displaced from their villages. 

"Islamist Fulani militia continue to engage in an aggressive and strategic land grabbing policy in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and parts of Bauchi state," the report reads.

"They attack rural villages, force villagers off their lands and settle in their place — a strategy that is epitomized by the phrase: 'your land or your blood.'"

HART said that while the exact death toll was not known, the data suggested over 1,000 Christian deaths since January, with Fulani attacks in Plateau, Southern Kaduna and Taraba states accounting for most of them, and the rest being attributed to killings by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Borno state. 

HART said that around half of the deaths occurred in five separate attacks in Kaduna between January and Novembe.

Christians have been the victim of attacks by Fulani herdsmen over the last few years, with HART estimating that over 6,000 have been killed since 2015 and another 12,000 displaced. 

"In every village, the message from local people is the same: 'Please, please help us! The Fulani are coming. We are not safe in our own homes,'" the report said. 

While tensions over land access and ownership are a factor in the violence, HART said the spread of attacks over predominantly Christian communities "suggests that religion and ideology play a key part".

The report also reveals that some Christian communities have resorted to counter-attacks.

"The attacks have, on occasion, led to retaliatory violence, as communities conclude that they can no longer rely on the government for protection or justice," the HART report reads.

"However, we have seen no evidence of comparability of scale or equivalence of atrocities."

Baroness Cox said that the pleas for help have been "ignored". 

"Something has to change — urgently," she said.

"For the longer, we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a 'green light' to carry on killing."