Assailants in an area of Nigeria where Fulani terrorists have operated freely burned a Catholic seminary student to death Thursday night in a failed kidnapping attempt, sources said.
In an attack at about 8 p.m. on the rectory of St. Raphael's Catholic Church in Fadan Kamantan, in southern Kaduna state, under the Kafanchan Diocese, terrorists unable to enter the home of the parish priest they sought to kidnap instead set it on fire, according to news outlet ACI Africa, citing an interview by Bishop Julius Yakubu Kundi of Kafanchan with charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The priest, the Rev. Emmanuel Okolo, and his assistant managed to escape, but the fire killed seminary student Na'aman Danlami, 25, Kundi reportedly said.
An area priest who had taught Danlami at the St. Albert Institute, the Rev. Williams Kaura Abba, asked for prayer in a text message to Morning Star News.
"The bandits went for a kidnapping spree," Abba said. "Two priests in the burnt house were able to escape. The seminarian was trapped. The bandits set the rectory ablaze. Na'aman Danlami, the seminarian, died of asphyxiation and suffered severe burns. May God rest the soul of this martyr."
Area resident Andrew Timothy told Morning Star News that Danlami's remains were taken to a mortuary.
The Rev. John Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, lamented lack of security in the area.
"It is sad that killings and this type of evil against Christians are still going on in spite of our appeal and pleading to Nigerian government to take measures towards ending these attacks," Hayab said.
Four Catholic priests were killed in Nigeria in 2022 and 28 were kidnapped, while so far this year 14 Catholic clergymen have been abducted, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
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.