‘Jihadist Crusade’ feared after 8 Christians were killed in latest attacks
Local church leaders are worried that Islamist nomadic herdsmen may be about to launch another “jihadist crusade” involving “mass murder” of Christians after a recent spate of killings in unprovoked attacks on Christian communities in northern Nigeria.
Two young Catholic fathers, both in their mid-20s, were killed on 5 April in Asso village, a week after the murder of four men and two women in another part of Kaduna state. Militant Fulani extremists are accused of carrying out the murders.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Asso parish priest Father Alexander Yeyock said: “The sad implication of [these attacks] is a mass murder for Christians in the northern part of Nigeria, especially the north-east and middle-belt regions.”
Stating that extremists in Nigeria were pushing for “an Islamic state and Shari‘a rule”, the priest explained: “The attack has two dimensions. The first is to Islamise the Christian community. It is a jihadist crusade in a subtle manner.The second dimension is that the Fulani herdsmen want to confiscate our arable land for grazing purposes.” He added that Fulani militants are “a masqueraded Boko Haram [Islamist terror group] in disguise.”
Asso villagers were increasingly concerned about their safety after soldiers defending the majority-Christian community were arrested for firing on the attackers. A number of the soldiers who replaced them are feared to be Fulani militants. Fr Yeyock told ACN “With the awareness of what happened to the previous soldiers, the highly concentrated number of [new soldiers] have increased the tension in Asso community which is predominantly a Christian community.”
After new laws in a State south of Kaduna dealt a severe blow to their cattle-grazing livelihood, Christians fear that militant Fulani herdsmen could travel to their region and launch a campaign of violence. The attack on Asso had sparked widespread fear among local Christians. “The community’s inhabitants find it difficult to go to their farms, and farming is the main occupation of the people. Once it is 6 pm, everyone begins to get jittery for fear of the unknown,” said Fr Yeyock. He accused local government of fuelling the attacks by not prosecuting offenders.
At the funeral of the latest victims of violence, Benue State governor Sam Orton described how Fulani extremists “went on the rampage wielding machetes” on New Year’s Day 2018 and killed. 72 Christian farmers. About a week later, militant Fulani was implicated in another attack which resulted in the death of 55 people in Taraba State’s Lau district.
Garba Sarkin-Noma, Kaduna State federal representative for Jema and Sanga, also commented on the violence in Asso: “That these attacks are being perpetrated in the absence of any provocation despite the presence of security personnel within the vicinity is an affirmation that a silent war has been declared on our communities by agents of darkness.” He called for an effective response from the government as well as the military to “expose and punish the perpetrators of these heinous crimes”.
In February Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna told ACN that the Fulani militants were now armed with modern weapons and that they had become radicalised. He stated that “powerful forces with connections to terrorist organizations such as Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda are behind groups such as these”.
The umbrella body for Nigerian Muslims dissociates itself from Boko Haram condemning their attacks as “barbaric”.