Murder and ethnic cleansing in Nigeria as Muslim Fulani herdsmen go after Christian farmers

Latest destruction wrought by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in NigeriaWorld Watch Monitor

More than 130 people have been killed in Nigeria in devastating attacks by mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen since June.

At least 65 churches were looted and destroyed in the attacks in Benue state.

According to World Watch Monitor, Fulani herdsmen have taken over some some church buildings to use them as bases from which to carry out their raids Christian villages.

In February, more than 500 people were murdered in Agatu in Benue. About 20,000 people are thought to have fled the latest massacres, the worst by the Fulanis since 2010 when nearly 500 Christians were murdered near Jos.

Although the attacks involve mainly Muslim ethnic Fulani cattle herders raiding mainly Christian farmers, the conflict goes beyond economics.

Rev Augustine Akpen Leva, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Benue State told World Watch Monitor: "This is another jihad like the one waged by Boko Haram in the north-east of the country. The attackers carry sophisticated weapons, sometimes they even used chemical weapons on our communities. They just come, often overnight when people are sleeping. They attack defenseless people and go away. They clearly have an agenda: to wipe out Christian presence and take over the land."

He added: "Lots of people have been killed and it is difficult to get an accurate death toll of the attacks. Sometimes they kill 20, another day they may kill 50. In recent weeks, more than 100 were killed in Logo and Ukum local government areas."

Churches have lost dozens of members, who have either died or fled. Congregations that until recently numbered 2000 or more are down to as few as 50.

"The pastors are also on the run. Their houses have also been destroyed and their members have been scattered all over, with many living in camps now," said Leva. More than 200 churches have been destroyed in Benue State alone. Schools have also been torched.

"The Government has failed us. There's no protection at all. The few security forces, which are often present, ran away before the attack," said Leva.

One casualty was a clergyman, Rev Joseph Kurah, who was hacked to death in Obi, Nasarawa on the last day of June.

Yonas Dembele, of Open Doors International, said the Fulani are working towards the imposition of Islamic law in what amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Middle Belt. He warned that the aggression is driven by the same ambition that drives Boko Haram to the north: to bring the non-Islamic world under Islamic rule.