Killing of Christians at 'epidemic levels' in Nigeria

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Suspected Fulani herdsmen on 25 September killed two Christians in Plateau state, Nigeria after Islamic State terrorists allegedly killed two others in the city of Kano the day before, sources said.

In northern Nigeria's Kano state, suspected members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) shot the two Christians to death at about 8pm in the state capital, said area resident Chukwudi Iwuchukwu.

He identified the slain Christians as Ifeanyi Ilechukwu, 41, and Chibuke Emannuel, 33. Iwuchukwu said ISWAP terrorists approached them at their shop in Kano city's predominantly Christian area of Sabon Gari in Fagge County.

"The terrorists came to the business shop of Ifeanyi Ilechukwu, where the Christians were sitting, and shot them at close range," Iwuchukwu told Morning Star News in a text message.

"Ilechukwu died instantly, while Emannuel, who was shot on his leg, died in the hospital on Sunday, 25 September."

The killing followed a September 18 bomb attack on a Christian-owned business in Taraba state's Jalingo town, in northeast Nigeria, by suspected ISWAP members.

The terrorists detonated an Improvised Explosive Device on the shop in the ATC area of the city in Ardo Kola County at about 9:30pm, damaging some shops and residential buildings, said area resident James Galvo.

Three Christians were in the shop at the time – Henry Boyi, a woman identified only as Christiana and a young girl, he said.

"Although, the woman, little girl and Boyi were injured and taken to the hospital, no life was lost in the incident," Galvo said in a text message to Morning Star News.

"But the entire shop was destroyed in an attack that was the fourth such attack in the past eight months."

The explosion damaged the adjacent home of Samuel Ayodele, he said.

A spokesman for the Taraba State Police Command, Usman Abdullahi, confirmed the bombing and said officers were investigating.

Plateau State Killings

In central Nigeria's Plateau state, suspected Fulani herdsmen on 25 September killed one Christian in Riyom County and another in Mangu County, sources said. A Christian woman in Riyom County was also killed on 19 September.

Alpha Pam Baren, 23, was ambushed and killed in Bangai village, Riyom County, at about 2:20pm on 25 September, said Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, director of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN).

Baren, his father and others had spotted herds of cattle grazing on their rice farm and went to drive them out, Mwantiri said.

"On their way returning back to their village, while Baren's colleagues had gone ahead, unknown to him some Fulani herdsmen had hid themselves in a nearby bush, waiting to ambush him," Mwantiri said.

"The herdsmen ambushed him and stabbed him."

Baren was rescued and taken to Vom Christian Hospital, a facility of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), where he died, Mwantiri said, adding that such attacks are part of an attempted genocide.

"This is an all-encompassing strategy of wiping the entire Christian population from our ancestral land and the face of the earth," he said.

"So far, more than 600 farmlands in Christian communities of Heipang, Gashish, Ropp, Wereng, Kwi, Jol, Bachi, Rahoss, Foron, Gyel, Vwang, and Kuru, with crops worth over 200 million naira [US$462,396], have been destroyed by the herdsmen in the past five months."

In Jannaret village, Mangu County, "herdsmen and bandits" on 25 September attacked at about 7:30pm, killing one Christian, Linus Mapack, and wounding two others, area resident Yusuf Charles said.

"They shot at anyone in sight," Charles told Morning Star News in a text message.

"It was during this sporadic shooting that a Christian was killed, and two others were injured. Some days back also, another Christian was also shot dead in Chanso village, another Christian community."

In Tangur village, Bokkos County, suspected Fulani herdsmen kidnapped a Christian on 25 September, an area resident said.

"Fulani herdsmen have kidnapped one Jerry Fwankis, a Christian in Bokkos Local Government Area," area resident John Akans told Morning Star News in a text message.

"We are deeply saddened by this incident. These onslaughts by armed herdsmen have assumed epidemic levels and need to be contained urgently by Nigeria's security agencies."

In predominanty Christian Tal village, Pankshin County, local community leader Nanleng Gotus was kidnapped at about 1am on 26 September, said area resident Joshua Gofwen.

"The Fulani herdsmen and armed bandits abducted the community leader, Nanleng Gotus, at gunpoint," Gofwen told Morning Star News in a text message.

"His abductors have already communicated with his family and are demanding a ransom of 50 million naira (US$115,600)."

In Mere village, Riyom County, "a group of Fulani militias" on 19 September ambushed and killed a Christian woman as she worked on her farm, Mwantiri said. Laraba Dauda was 60 years old.

"The Christian woman had gone to her farm but didn't return home," Mwantiri said.

"Other villagers were alerted by her family, and a search party from the village went out in search of her. The search party was attacked by the herdsmen in the bush forcing them to retreat back to the village."

The following morning, the search party went back to the farm and found her body, he said.

"She was slaughtered by the herdsmen, as her corpse had a cut on her neck," he said. "The corpse of the woman was recovered by the search party, assisted by soldiers who were alerted by villagers about the killing of the woman."

Dauda's funeral was held on 20 September at the building of the COCIN church in Mere village, Mwantiri said.

"The Christian villagers lamented how they've been attacked incessantly by the herders, and their crops on their farms destroyed by these herdsmen," he said.

In Rizek village, Jos East County, suspected herdsmen on 21 September attacked two homes, kidnapping a woman and teenage girl, an area resident said.

"The gunmen attacked the village at about 11pm," Augustine Ajik told Morning Star News in a text message.

"During the attack, the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Hassan, a member of ECWA [Evangelical Church Winning All] Plateau Church in Gwafan area and a staff member of Jos University Teaching Hospital, was invaded, and her daughter, a 14-year-old girl, was kidnapped, while the other members of her family escaped."

The assailants also broke into a second house in the Gwafan area and kidnapped a Christian woman, Ajik said.

Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors' 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.

Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.

In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.

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