Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked a cluster of predominantly Christian villages in Kaduna state last week, killing at least 13 Christians and scattering members of three churches, area sources said.
A survivor of the attacks told Morning Star News that the herdsmen killed two Christian women in Ninte village in the Jema'a Local Government Area (LGA) of the north-central state on Aug. 1, and that she knew of eight Christians killed in Gada Biyu on Aug. 2. Local newspapers reported nine people were killed in Gada Biyu, with an additional two men killed in Akwa'a on Aug. 3.
One of hundreds of Christians displaced from the area, Martha Yohanna of Alheri Baptist Church in Gada Biyu village, told Morning Star News that the attacks on Ninte and Gada Biyu villages were carried out by Muslim Fulani herdsmen from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3.
"On Aug. 1 at about noon in Ninte, the Fulani herdsmen attacked two Christian women and a man while they were on their farm," she said. "They cut them with machetes. A woman and her daughter in-law were killed by the Fulani herdsmen while the man is still in the hospital as I talk with you."
The next day, the Fulani herdsmen killed eight Christians in Gada Biyu, including five identified only as Friday, Akoro, Mamman, Danladi, and Jerry, she said.
Her brother-in-law, 25-year-old Joseph, is missing and is presumed to have been killed by the herdsmen, Yohanna said.
"It is over a week now that he has not been seen, and nothing has been heard about him," she said.
On Aug. 3, after security forces had turned away the herdsmen, the assailants returned to Gada Biyu at about 6 p.m. to burn down houses, she said.
"They carried out the destruction for three hours," Yohanna said. "I escaped from Gada Biyu to Gidan Waya on Monday [Aug. 1] when the Fulani came to attack the village at noon, and returned on Wednesday afternoon to retrieve some of our clothing. By the evening of that Wednesday, the Fulani herdsmen returned to my village to destroy our homes. They lit fire on some houses before policemen and soldiers were brought there to repel them."
Gada Biyu, near the Kafanchan, has three Christian congregations that were displaced as a result of the attack, she said: Alheri Baptist Church, Sabon Rai Baptist Church, and an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA).
"The three pastors escaped from the village during the attack, and since the attack have not returned to the village," she said. "My pastor, the Rev. Nathan Jaweson of Alheri Baptist Church, on Monday, following the killing of the two women in Ninte village, evacuated his family to Godogodo and returned to Gada Biyu. However, he narrowly escaped being killed on Tuesday [Aug. 2] as he swam across the river at Gada Biyu. He's currently living as a displaced person in Kafanchan."
The pastor of the ECWA church has fled to Godogodo, while the whereabouts of the pastor of Sabon Rai Baptist Church are unknown, she added. Because of the attacks, the three churches of Gada Biyu held no worship services on Sunday (Aug. 7). Alheri Baptist Church normally has about 300 members.
The attack on Gada Biyu village marks the Muslim Fulani herdsmen's fourth attack on Christian communities this year in the area, sources told Morning Star News in Gidan Waya, a few kilometers from Gada Biyu. Officials on Tuesday (Aug. 9) told Morning Star News not to proceed to Gidan Biyu as herdsmen activities still made it unsafe.
In early June, Fulani herdsmen attacked five Christian women on a farm in Ninte village, the sources said, and wounded a young man with machetes. A week later, Fulani herdsmen attacked two area Christian men on their farm. One of them, identified only as 40-year-old Jerry, suffered machete wounds and was taken to a hospital at Godogodo.
In May of this year, Fulani herdsmen attacked Ninte village again, killing two Christians identified only as Saleh and Joshua, both members of the Baptist Church in Ninte.
In May 2015, an area Christian identified only as Ango was attacked on his farm by Fulani herdsmen. They cut him with machetes and left him half dead before a pastor of the Baptist Church at Ninte found him. He was taken to the hospital at Kafanchan.
Kaduna and Plateau states have been plagued by such attacks for years, with Fulani leaders making unsubstantiated claims of cattle rustling by youths among the predominantly Christian farmers as the pretext for the killings. In recent years there are signs that Islamic extremist groups are arming and/or accompanying Muslim Fulani herdsmen and inciting them in their tribal and economic conflicts with Christian farmers. The assaults on unarmed Christians have reached central-eastern states such as Taraba and Benue, as well as more southern areas.
Church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war "by Islam to eliminate Christianity" in Nigeria. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.