Suspected Herdsmen Kill 12 Christians in Benue State, Nigeria
After authorities in Nigeria ignored warnings that thousands of cattlemen were arriving in Benue state, suspected herdsmen on Saturday (Jan. 28) attacked two villages there and killed 12 Christians, sources said.
The assailants attacked Ichembe and Mbaigbe villages in Kwande County and wounded dozens of others, besides destroying houses, crops and farms, said Michael Aondohemba, general coordinator of the Turan People’s Assembly (TUPA).
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“Before these attackers unleashed their fangs of terror on our hitherto peaceful communities, we had raised early warning alarms on the influx of thousands of herdsmen into the banks areas of River Benue where our communities are located,” Aondohemba said. “We had called on security agencies to intervene, but no help came, thereby leaving our helpless, poor and innocent people vulnerable.”
“The 12 Christians were gruesomely massacred by suspected herdsmen,” Asawa said. “Many other Christians were displaced from the two communities, and they’re currently taking refuge at Jato-Aka town.”
Aondohemba of TUPA said that the destruction inflicted on the two villages left no doubt that the assailants were planning further bloodshed in the communities.
“We are thoroughly pained that these suspected herdsmen have continued to terrorize our communities despite the alarm raised by Christians in the area,” Aondohemba said. “We view the renewed onslaught against our communities as a scheme aimed at decimating us and gradually entrenching anarchy in our communities.”
He called on the Nigerian government to urgently come to their aid.
Aondohemba identified five of the slain as Tersugh Iorliam, Tersoo Samu, Ngolo Ndera, Ternenge Asaku and Udoji Penda.
“Seven other Christians killed have had their corpses evacuated to the mortuary in a hospital in the area,” he said.
A member of Nigeria’s National Assembly, Bob Tyough, said that entire Christian communities were being destroyed by armed herdsmen and other terrorists while the government seemed incapable of curtailing the carnage.
“Human life is sacred, and only God who is the supreme Creator has the right to freely take what He gives,” Tyough said. “It is my belief that those who attack the innocents have no single atom of piety in their heart and therefore should not expect mercy from the supreme Creator.”
He called on the government to order security agencies to urgently end attacks, and he decried the surge of such atrocities in Benue state.
“I empathize with families of the Christian victims over the death of their loved ones and want them to take solace in the fact that the fallen ones have only gone to rest with their Creator and at the appointed time will surely rise with Jesus Christ on the judgment day,” Tyough said.
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 recent 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.
- MORNNING STAR