Suspected Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists killed three Christians in Benue state, Nigeria on Sunday, after slaughtering at least 22 others in the same area in past three weeks, sources said.
The assailants attacked predominantly Christian Tse Ngban village in Guma County at about 4pm, area resident Paul Adagu told Morning Star News in a text message. Another resident, Michael Juhul, corroborated Adagu's account.
"The Fulani herdsmen who attacked the Ngban community were more than two dozen, and they were all armed with guns," Juhul told morning Star News in a text message. "They killed three members of our community."
He added that in the prior three weeks, the predominantly Muslim herdsmen killed 13 Christian in attacks on the villages of Tse Numgbera, Umella, Yogobo and Ukohol, also in Guma County.
The chairman of the Guma Local Government Area, Mike Ubah, said four of the 13 Christians were killed on 9-10 September in two villages, Ukohol and Yogobo, including two women.
"The herdsmen also destroyed houses belonging to these Christians by setting fire on them during the attacks, which lasted for two days, Friday and Saturday, the 9th and 10th of September," Ubah told Morning Star News.
"A week earlier, nine Christians were killed in separate attacks in Guma Local Government Area (LGA) by these herdsmen."
In addition, Ubah said nine other Christians were killed in the first week of September in the county, three in Tse Numgbera village on 3 September, and six in Umella village on 1 September.
More than 6,000 Christians in three counties of Benue state have been displaced as a result of recent attacks, said Emmanuel Shior, executive secretary of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
"Recent attacks by herders on some Christian communities in Benue state have left 6,000 Christians displaced in Logo, Guma, and Gwer West local government areas of the state," Shior said in a text message to Morning Star News. "These continuous attacks by herdsmen on Christian communities in the state have also resulted in the destruction of facilities like churches, schools, markets and health care establishments."
Catherine Anene, spokesperson for the Benue State Police Command, confirmed that "a number of persons were killed in attacks on some communities in Guma and two other local government areas, and investigations on these attacks are ongoing."
Masked Animists in Plateau State
In Plateau state, followers of traditional religion wearing masks attacked a church service on Sunday, injuring several members, sources said.
The masked, tribal animists, known locally as Masquerades, assaulted the pastor and church members and destroyed equipment of the Assemblies of God Church in Shikal village, Langtang South County, area residents said. They said the assailants told the Christians that they should not hold worship services while the Masquerades were performing their traditional religion rituals.
"The pastor and his members were beaten and church properties destroyed," area resident Zion Kantak told Morning Star News in a text message. "This is not the first time Christians are being attacked, as in years past they have witnessed incessant attacks without authorities doing anything to protect Christians from the violation of their religious liberty."
Area resident Emmanuel Lungfa said the assailants beat the worshippers and chased them out of their church building. Bright Longwus, another resident, said Masquerades attacking Christians has become commonplace.
"They invade Christian worship centers at will, and nothing has been done to safeguard and protect Christians," Longwus said. "Christians here are helpless against such attacks, and the government officials and agencies have not made any effort to curtail these attacks."
The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Plateau State Chapter, said he has been informed of the attack and is investigating.
"The secretary of CAN Plateau State is from that area, and he has been directed to get more details about the incident," the Rev. Polycarp Lubo told Morning Star News. "We'll ensure that we find out reasons for the attack on Christians there."
Alfred Alabo, spokesman for Plateau State Police Command, said in a press statement that the area divisional police officer confirmed the attack.
"He said Masquerades went to a church and disrupted their activities," Alabo said. "The investigation is ongoing; we will give full details when we have them."
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (1 October 2020 to 30 September 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.