Morning Star News is reporting that an attack in Nigeria that killed 18 Christians has capped two years of Islamic aggression. It says that Muslim Fulani herdsmen are suspected in another deadly assault in the area.
The news agency's Nigeria correspondent wrote that Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.
The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometres away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.
"When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated," Mashaf said. "I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers."
They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.
"They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village," Mashaf said.
"They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured."
Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.
The 18 slain were members of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Reverend James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men's Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday.
"At about 8pm the attackers, all Muslim Fulani herdsmen, came into this village in two separate groups, attacking us from two different directions, and shooting down anyone they saw," he said.
"They came from the northwestern end of the village, and then separated into two groups with one of the groups attacking from the western end, while the second group attacked from the eastern end."
The Morning Star Nigerian correspondent continued by saying that besides Sunday, Mahwash said, among those killed were Kokiwo Malo, 65; Maren Galadima, 18; Gambo Geofrey Mafuyai, 45; Adamu Maren, 55; Zoron Adamu, 10; Maren Garba, 20; Danladi Mangar, 20; Joel Peter, 20; Boaz Masara, 20; Oge Emeka, 5; and one identified only as Jang from the neighboring village of Kunet.
The assailants also burned the houses of three Christians - Malo Kabu, Marion Bitrus and Mapu Daniel - in Mile Bakwai, "Seventh Mile" in the Hausa language as it is about seven miles from the main mining camp at Tenti village. Mile Bakwai is a former mining camp in the rocky hills of the Jos Plateau, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Jos.
In several previous attacks, the herdsmen robbed the 150-member church of about 211,000 naira (US$1315), Mahwash added.
"We believe that our attackers are Muslim Fulani herdsmen," he said. "We know they have been attacking Christian communities in rural areas across central Nigerian states. We are not happy about this and feel that the Nigerian government has to do something urgently to curtail these attacks in order to save lives and restore peace in the northern part of this country."
The correspondent went on to say that ethnic Fulani Muslims are believed to have the backing of Islamic extremist groups in attacks on Christian areas in central and northern Nigeria. The Reverend Barnabas Kebang, chairman of the Bokkos Regional Church Council of COCIN, said the attack on Mile Bakwai was one of numerous assaults against Christians in the area.
"Since the year 2011, over 100 Christians have been killed here," he said.
Christian communities attacked include those in the villages of Mushu, Tsohon Mushu, Marish, Ruboi, Wumat, Magi, Gada Biyu, Batish, Butura Gida, Pyakmalu, Mper, Ruwi, Chenget, Njukkudel and Washen, Kebang said.
Kebang, who as chair of the regional church council over 46 COCIN pastors oversees about 11,000 church members, was blunt about the identity of the culprits.
"Muslim Fulani herdsmen are responsible for these attacks," he said.
After attacking Christian communities, Fulani herders "usually go out there to dish out false information to the world through their Islamic backers in the Middle East, using the Western press," Kebang said. As result, he said, international press tend to misrepresent Muslim aggression as "sectarian conflict", especially when Christians try to defend themselves.
Security agencies reported arresting six of the dozens of Muslims who attacked Mile Bakwai, but said five of those were killed during gun-battle during between the assailants and law enforcement forces, Kebang said. Reports he received from the Special Task Force created to stem violence indicated one of the Muslim attackers said 46 attackers participated in the assault on Mile Bakwai.
Kebang said the attack displaced nearly 500 Christians.
"We have about 140 of our church members displaced in this particular attack, and you can see them right here in the church premises," Kebang said from his office in Bokkos in mid-April. "About 300 other Christians displaced in the attack are right now at the St Thomas Catholic Church here in Bokkos, and another group of about 13 are camped at the Christ Apostolic Church also here in Bokkos town."
The Morning Star News Nigeria correspondent stated that besides hit-and-run attacks by Fulani Muslims, the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group has targeted Christians in Nigeria in its effort to destabilise the government and impose sharia (Islamic law) nationwide. The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar II, considered the leader of Nigeria's Muslims, has called for a halt to attacks on Christians, but Kebang said area Muslims either deny or don't know of the directive.
"In different forums where we have met to dialogue with Muslim leaders here in Plateau state, we have heard Muslim and Fulani leaders saying bluntly that they will not listen to anyone or act in a peaceful manner until the Sultan of Sokoto directs," he said.
Sokoto is the base of the Caliphate, a Fulani oligarchy established centuries ago.
The sultan also recently called on the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to Boko Haram, but the Islamic extremist sect's leader, Abubakar Shekau, has rejected the idea, claiming the group has not committed any crime warranting amnesty.
"Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and reside primarily in the north, according to Operation World," concluded the correspondent.