Attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen or allied gunmen in southern Kaduna State appear to be increasingly militant, marked by greater sophistication in training and arms, sources said.
Advocacy group Jubiliee Campaign released a statement on Wednesday (Nov. 9) noting that a militant group associated with Fulani herdsmen has become increasingly dangerous.
"With the presence of the Boko Haram terrorist organization, the world's deadliest terrorist organization, Nigeria contains two of the top terrorist groups in the world," the statement read. "The Fulani militants have gotten little international attention due to a focus on the Boko Haram, allowing their activities to grow unchecked. They typically kill villagers, burn villages, and move in with their cattle so that any survivors from the attacked village are unable to return and rebuild their lives. Christian communities have been especially attacked and displaced."
Having retaken much of the territory that the Islamic extremist Boko Haram claimed in Nigeria's northeast in 2014-2015, the Nigerian military has reportedly warned Fulani herdsmen that they will be targeted next, according to a Nigerian Defense spokesman.
At least 22 Christians in Kaduna state were killed in the past three weeks in attacks that included men in military uniform calling a meeting that ended in the slaughter of the village leaders, sources said.
Area leaders blamed Muslim Fulani herdsmen and militants allied with the herdsmen for the attacks, which have accelerated in recent months.
"Two churches were destroyed at Angwan Ali and Sabon Gari villages, while all 22 Christians killed by the herdsmen are members of local church congregations in area villages," the Rev. Dauda Samson of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Angwan Mailafia, told Morning Star News.
Pastor Samson said that herdsmen killed one Christian in Tudun Wada on Friday (Nov. 4). On Oct. 27, he said, three Christians were killed in Angwan Ali; nine were killed in Pasakori village; seven in Ungwan Misisi; and one in Angwan Kagoro-Gidan Waya.
In Tachira, a village in the Kaura Local Government Area, armed Fulani herdsmen ambushed a Christian on his way to a church worship service on Oct. 20. Area resident Markus Usman told Morning Star News the herdsmen dragged the Christian into the bush and hacked him to death while the service was going on.
"The corpse of the murdered Christian was found in the bush after the church service, as the members of the family of the victim discovered traces of blood that led to a nearby bush," he said.
In the Oct. 27 attack in Ungwan Misisi, Jema'a LGA, a group of men in military uniforms invited seven village elders, including 85-year-old village head John Zogo, to a meeting to discuss security, according to Waje Goska Williams, national chairman of the Kaninkon Development Association (KADA). In a press statement, he called the men in military uniforms "soldiers."
"As soon as the soldiers came and started discussing with the village head and the elders, our people heard gunshots on the outskirts of the village, and these same soldiers then shot and killed the village head and some others in the house of the village head, and fled," Williams said in the statement. "They did not stay to defend the village. The whole village was burned down, and those who managed to escape are now internally displaced persons."
Military officials told Jema'a LGA Chairman Humble Katuka, however, that the soldiers meeting with the village elders did not kill them. The soldiers also came under attack from the herdsmen who approached the area firing on the outskirts, with some of the invading herdsmen dressed in military fatigues, according to Nigerian press reports citing Katuka.
Katuka said the military officials told him the soldiers meeting with the villagers also came under fire, were firing back to save their own lives and did not turn their guns on the villagers. At the end of the 15-minute attack, he said, 16 homes had been burned down and six people killed, including the village head.
Besides Zogo, KADA's Williams identified those killed in the attack as Yakubu Abuja, 80; Adamu Bulus, 30; Majhe Audu, 50; Karu Amos, 42; Confidence Kibadu, 29; and Kurma Amos, 44.
"We are under unprovoked and sustained attacks by people who are not known but who are working closely with the local Fulani people that we have lived with for many years," Williams said. "The motive of the attacks is clearly unknown, but we can see that it is a genocidal mission."
The Kaninkon Chiefdom where the attack took place is an area where Fulani jihads of the 19thcentury fell short, and attacks there constitute an Islamist attempt to complete that previous jihadist effort, he said. Williams said lack of effort by area security forces indicated a conspiracy by government officials to wipe out the predominantly Christian tribe.
"The professionalism employed by the attackers is such that [they could be] only trained people who have the backing and aid of some people in government and the security forces," he said. "We are particularly worried because there seems to be a conspiracy of silence and complacency on the part of the security agencies and the Kaduna state and federal governments on the plight of our people ... The attacks, especially that of 27th October, wherein the village head of Ungwan Misisi and some elders were gruesomely murdered in cold blood by some people who came as soldiers, clearly shows the conspiracy by the security men in wiping out our people."
He said security forces in the area deliberately refused to gather information necessary to have prevented the Oct. 27 attack.
"These attacks have gone on for more than one week, and the security men are either not there, or they are aiding and abetting the attackers to annihilate our people and destroy their hard-earned properties," he said.
Pastor Samson said many Christians have been forced out of their villages as a result of the attacks. Area resident Aku Hosea told Morning Star News that attacks by the herdsmen have become common and displaced thousands of Christians.
"We are very disturbed that it is no longer safe to carry out our day-to-day activities, especially congregating to worship in our various churches," Hosea said. "Our farms too, have become no-go areas, as Christian farmers get killed on their farms on a daily basis."
Grace Daniel, a resident of Kafanchan, told Morning Star News that these are trying times for Christians there.
"Most Christian villages are now desolate, and Christians are now displaced persons," she said. "Many have been killed and their homes destroyed."