Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed more than 48 Christians and injured eight others in two separate attacks in northwestern Nigeria in October and September, area leaders said.
At least 40 Christians were killed in an Oct. 15 attack in the predominantly Christian town of Godogodo, Kaduna, and another eight were slaughtered in the same town three weeks earlier, Sept. 24–26. In this earlier attack, herdsmen also wounded eight Christians by gunshot and machete cuts, the leaders said.
“This is a jihad,” pastor Thomas Akut said. “It is an Islamic holy war against Christians in the southern part of Kaduna state.”
Fulani herdsmen have clashed with Christian farmers in Nigeria for more than 100 years, but most attacks have occurred in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index.
Akut, the 41-year-old pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Good News Church in Godogodo, said he saw the attacks as an Islamic war against Christians. The assailants burned houses and shot Christians dead. Akut and his family, he told Morning Star, escaped harm by sleeping on the ground outside town until Oct. 16, when they made their way to Kafanchan, he told Morning Star News by phone. The attack has displaced all 245 members of his church including himself.
“Our farms have been destroyed,” Akut said. “Crops that are now ready for harvest have all been destroyed by the herdsmen. Members of our churches cannot even go to these farms, as anyone who attempts to do so is murdered by the herdsmen. Most of the villages around Godogodo have been destroyed and thousands of Christians displaced.”
Herdsmen destroyed farms in an attempt to displace and starve survivors, and damaged 16 church buildings and worship centers in the two attacks, Christian leaders said.
The damaged buildings belonged to St. Francis Catholic Church, St. Simeon Anglican Church, Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), Deeper Life Bible Church, Grace of God Church, Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Assemblies of God Church, ECWA I & II, ECWA Good News, ECWA Kibam, Lord’s Chosen Church, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Nasara Baptist Church, Christ Apostolic Church, and Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“We fled into the bushes, and some of us escaped to safer areas,” Akut said. “The attackers were in the hundreds and were well armed. Some of them wore army uniforms, while others wore police uniforms. Some of them exchanged gunfire with the few soldiers stationed at the post office in the town, while others burned down houses of Christians.”
Initially Akut saw 22 Christians had been killed, he said. “This casualty figure is only those I saw the following morning, but the number of deaths may be higher as many were killed in the bushes too.”
Solomon Musa, an attorney and president of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), said at a press conference Oct. 17 that local residents identified at least 40 people who had been killed.
“Godogodo communities once again came under very fierce, terrifying, brutal, savage and barbarous attack by Fulani herdsmen without provocation of any nature from Saturday 15th October, 2016, to Sunday afternoon,” he said. “So far, the locals have been able to identify not less than 40 corpses, aside from the several other corpses burnt beyond recognition.”
A Kaduna State Command spokesman reportedly said the official death toll remained at 20.
Nearly all houses in Godogodo have been burned, SOKAPU’s Musa said. And the Muslim Fulani herdsmen also destroyed property worth hundreds of millions of naira, besides grazing their cattle on farmers’ crops and destroying what remained.
“The savagery and barbarity of the attack is beyond belief,” Musa said. “Yet, governments at the federal and state levels appear quiet and noncommittal. We have been abandoned, deserted and neglected.”
Isaac Balason of Nasara Baptist Church, Godogodo, spoke to Morning Star News while the town was under attack.
“It is now 8:30 p.m., and the attack is ongoing,” he said by phone Oct. 15. “We’re not sure we’ll survive this time. Please be in prayers with us.” The following morning, Balason told Morning Star News that herdsmen had burned down houses in Angwan Ninzo and Angwan Jaba, among other areas.
“Thank God we survived, but many others have lost their lives,” the 34-year-old pastor said. “Three out my 120 members were killed during the first attack, and the rest, including myself, have been displaced,” he said. “I cannot say whether they all survived this latest attack, as it is difficult at this moment to know the situation they are in.”
Samuel Musa, a 60-year-old elder with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Godogodo, told Morning Star News shortly before the second attack that during Sabbath worship, the church usually had 50 members present, but that the first attack on the town displaced all of them except him and three others.
“We have lost so much to the attacks by the herdsmen,” Musa said.
Ishaya Danladi Mallam, 46, an elder with the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC), told Morning Star that the first attack displaced all but 24 of the church’s 220 members. “We covet your prayers and those of other brethren. We are facing very threatening, tough times.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)