Nearly 50 Christians killed in Nigeria attacks; dozens wounded, displaced

BENUE, Nigeria (BP) – Neary 50 Christians have been killed in a series of militant attacks on villages in Benue, Plateau and Kaduna states in late April through early May, with dozens more wounded and displaced, according to news reports.

Militant Fulani killed six Christians in southern Kaduna May 5, followed by 28 Christians in Benue April 20-22, and 12 Christians April 19 in Plateau, Christian Daily International/ Morning Star News (CDI/Morning Star) said in a series of reports May 1-7, quoting eyewitnesses and government officials.

In a separate attack April 23 in Kaduna, bandits not identified as Fulani killed pastor Manasseh Ibrahim. The Evangelical Church Winning All pastor was shot to death along the Birnin Gwari-Kaduna Highway, the Birnin Gwari chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria said in a press statement.

Several farming communities in Benue are deserted because of the escalating attacks, the Daily Post reported April 20.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its 2024 annual report, urged the U.S. State Department to add Nigeria to its list of 12 Countries of Particular Concern, indicating “particularly severe” religious freedom violations under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, that are also “systemic, ongoing and egregious.”

Benue, Plateau and Kaduna are among six states where violence was most prevalent in 2023, USCIRF said in its report.

In the latest attack, militant Fulani armed with guns, machetes and cudgels raided the predominantly Christian village of Ambe in southern Kaduna around midnight as residents were sleeping, killing six and wounding eight, CDI/Morning Star said, referencing village resident Zachariah Sanga and National Assembly of Nigeria member Daniel Amos.

In at least three attacks April 20-22 in the Gwer West Local Government Area of Benue, militant Fulani ambushed and killed six Christians April 20 as they attended the funeral of a Christian in Mbabwande village; killed 14 Christians April 21 around 11 p.m. in Gyaluwa village, and killed others April 22 in a Christian community along Naka/Adoka Road, Henry Agba, chairman of the Gwer West Local Government Council, told CDI/Morning Star.

“So far, Christian villagers have recovered the 28 corpses of Christians killed during these attacks,” CDI/ Morning Star quoted Agba. “Furthermore, dozens of other Christians were wounded and are currently receiving treatment in some hospitals.”

Fulani militants also kidnapped several people in the Gwer area, including the six-member Christian family of Matthew Chile as they drove along Naka Highway April 30. Kidnappers released them May 5 after Chile’s relatives paid a ransom of perhaps 50 million naira ($36,150), a spokesman for Chile’s employer Benue State University told CDI/Morning Star.

In an attack April 19 in Plateau, militant Fulani attacked the farming community of Tilengpan Pushit at 2 a.m., several sources told CDI/ Morning Star.

“Most of the victims are women and children who were unable to escape from the invaders,” village resident Israel Bamshak said.

Mangu Local Government Council Chairman Markus Artu, Plateau Gov. Caleb Mutfwang, and village residents Monday Mwansat and John Musa also confirmed the attacks, according to CDI/ Morning Star.

“Twelve members of our community have been killed,” Musa said. “We have become targets of attacks from Fulani herdsmen for no just cause.”

USCIRF, in a June 2023 report on Ethnonationalism and Religious Freedom in Nigeria, cited militant Fulani herdsmen among “a plethora of armed actors committing violence with dire implications for religious freedom.”

“This is particularly true in northcentral Nigeria, where ethnonationalist fighters affiliated with the predominantly Muslim Fulani community attack vulnerable Christian civilians with impunity,” USCIRF said.

USCIRF also cited ethnonationalist fighters affiliated with the predominantly Christian Igbo community in southeast Nigeria, saying the fighters have “at times targeted Muslim civilians as a part of their campaign to secede.”

The fighters have been implicated in attacks against Muslim and Christian worshipers, USCIRF said in the 2023 issue update.

Nigeria remains the deadliest place for Christians, with 4,118 Christians murdered for their faith there from October 2022 through September 2023, persecution watchdog Open Doors reported in its 2024 World Watch List.

USCIRF has advocated for the State Department to name Nigeria as a CPC, which would position the country for targeted sanctions and other repercussions aimed at policy changes and religious freedom protections there.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)

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