Armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 13 Christians in Plateau state, Nigeria on January 8, the same day four students were kidnapped from a Catholic seminary in Kaduna state.
About 20 herdsmen attacked the predominantly Christian village of Kulben, in Plateau state's Mangu County, at about 8 p.m., area residents told Morning Star News. The 13 dead were all members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), as were three people wounded in the assault, they said.
"They were shooting with guns in all directions, forcing the villagers to scamper into surrounding bushes," area resident Michael Mutding, 40, told Morning Star News in a text message. "Corpses of those killed have been evacuated by soldiers and police to the mortuary of Mangu Cottage Hospital; and all the victims are members of COCIN."
Bala Fwengje, a legislator representing the area in the Plateau State House of Assembly, said in a statement that the attacks came in spite of efforts by security agencies.
"This attack on my people by these herdsmen comes as a rude shock to us, as efforts have been made by security agencies to curtail such incessant attacks on our people," Fwengje said. "It is a sad thing that these attacks are still being carried out by the herdsmen on our people without provocation."
Audu Tetmut, a 60-year-old area leader of the Christian community, said there had never been any problem between his people and herdsmen living in the area.
"Our community had lived peacefully with the herdsmen without any issues of dispute with them," Tetmut told Morning Star News. "So we are surprised that they attacked us."
Plateau state Gov. Simon Bako Lalong on Thursday (Jan. 9) vowed to bring the guilty to justice.
"We have toiled to ensure that peace returns to Plateau state, and we will not allow anyone to make nonsense of our efforts," Lalong said. "We are determined to deal decisively and firmly with anybody found culpable in attacking or inciting people to carry out attacks against one another."
Plateau State Command spokesman Terna Tyopev confirmed the attack in a statement on Thursday.
"We received a distress call that gunmen suspected to be herdsmen attacked Kulben community of Kombun District of Mangu," he said. "As a result, 13 persons lost their lives and three were severely injured...Our team of detectives and other officers are on the scene of the crime to prevent further attacks."
Outside Kaduna city, capital of Kaduna state, four students were kidnapped from The Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary on Wednesday night (Jan. 8), an official said.
"Armed bandits" abducted the seminarians after the assailants shot sporadically at students, professors and staff members between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., according to the Rev. Joel Usman, registrar of the institution.
The seminary, which trains students for Roman Catholic priesthood, is located in Kakau village along the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
"The Good Shepherd Major Seminary was attacked by armed bandits yesterday, Jan. 8, between 10:30-11 p.m.," Usman said. "After a head count of students with security agents, four seminarians have been declared missing."
Contacted by phone, Usman told Morning Star News, "Yes, we were attacked last night as I said in the statement I issued earlier this morning. Kindly pray for the release of these students."
A break-away faction from Boko Haram, the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP), on Dec. 26 released a video in Nigeria of the terrorists executing 11 people whom they said were Christians.
Saying the executions were in retaliation for the killing of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an October U.S. raid in northwestern Syria and his likely successor in a separate attack, a voice on the video says those executed are Christians as a message "to the Christians in the world."
The identities of those killed, however, were not known. Timed near Christmas for maximum media exposure, the video showed executions thought to be ordered by IS around the world since the killing of Baghdadi and his likely successor, IS spokesman Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir.
The ISWAP faction left the Islamic extremist Boko Haram in 2016.
The 56-second video, released to Muslim Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida, shows the captives in orange tunics and kneeling as the terrorists stand behind them in black balaclavas. One captive is shot in the head, and the terrorists then slash the throats of the 10 others.
"This message is to the Christians in the world," a voice-over says in Arabic and Hausa. "Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims [Baghdadi], and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them."
President Buhari commented through a media aide's statement.
"We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims, because these barbaric killers don't represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world," Buhari said.
United Nation Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent condolences through his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, to families of the executed Christians and the Nigeria government.
"The secretary general is deeply concerned about reports that civilians have been executed, and others abducted, by an armed group in northern Borno State, northeastern Nigeria," Dujarric said. "He expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and reiterates the solidarity of the United Nations with the people and government of Nigeria."
Last month Boko Haram released a video of 11 men held captive, and one of them says Christians are among them. Identifying himself as Bitrus Bwala, a principal lecturer at the College of Education in Gashua, Yobe state, he pleads for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Nigeria's government to urgently negotiate with the terrorists in order to save their lives.
Bwala says in the video that the captives saw Action Against Hunger aid workers before they were executed, and that captured Christian high school student Leah Sharibu "is still here."
"We therefore appeal in particular to President Muhammadu Buhari to do whatever is within his reach to rescue us," he says. "We equally appeal to our various governors to come to our aid and rescue us. The leadership of Christian organizations, we appeal to you to liaise with the federal government and push for the rescue of all captives here."
The Rev. Samson Ayokunle, CAN president, said Bwala and the 10 other men in the video released in December were all Christians who were kidnapped on Nov. 27.
"The government has not secured their freedoms or said anything about them," Ayokunle said in a statement. "If criminals are invading the Christian communities, killing and abducting unchallenged, what do we call it if it is not persecution? How many terrorists, Fulani herdsmen killers and bandits are in the custody of the security agencies? How many of them have been arraigned in court?"
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
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