Authorities declined to acknowledge that Muslim Fulani herdsmen were behind a rash of attacks on Christian communities in Plateau state last week that took 38 lives and displaced 5,000 people, area sources said.
More than 100 armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen at about 2 a.m. on Wednesday(Sept. 16) attacked the Christian community of Kadunung, in the Mangu Local Government Area (LGA), killing 18 Christians and sending 5,000 running for their lives, according to witnesses, though authorities did not identify the assailants as Muslim Fulanis in an effort to quell ethnic and religious violence.
About 150 houses were destroyed in the attack and 18 corpses recovered and buried, while the injured were taken to the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, Jos, said Titus Bise, chairman of the Mangu Local Government Council, in a press statement.
"I was part of the rescue team that evacuated the victims, and so far we have recovered 11 bodies of people burnt in their houses," Bise said. "Apart from the 11 bodies we picked from various places, there is a compound where we saw seven people burnt in their rooms. That makes 18 deaths so far, and we are suspecting there are more dead bodies in the bushes."
The 5,000 displaced residents of the village constitute a serious humanitarian problem, he said.
"The situation of the displaced is worse because the rainy season is at its peak," he said. "Most of the displaced are living in the open, and the rains are here. That alone can increase the casualties if nothing is done fast."
Charles Matoh, a Christian community leader in nearby Gindiri, said by phone many of the displaced are taking refuge there.
"Many people have been killed, and among them is a man and his six children," Matoh said.
The Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), told Morning Star News that in spite of pleas from the church to the Nigerian government, such killings have continued unabated.
"We are again saddened that these killings and attacks on Christian communities, instead of being reduced, are on the increase almost on daily basis," he said. "We still want to appeal that the government strive to put an end to these attacks on innocent people."
In Foron and Fan districts in the Barkin Ladi LGA, armed Muslim Fulanis attacked seven Christian communities on Sept. 14 at about 1 a.m., killing 17 Christians; three others later died in the hospital from bullet wounds, area sources said.
Local resident James Pam told Morning Star News by phone that the attack occurred between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Datiri of the COCIN said all 20 of the dead were members of his church.
"Reports we received from our pastors in the area have confirmed the killing of 20 more of our members," he said. "We are saddened about these attacks, but hope that the government is able to act to put an end to these senseless killings of Christians in Plateau state."
Istifanus Gyang, a member of the parliament in the Plateau State House of Assembly, confirmed the killings while speaking to journalists in Jos on Sept. 14.
"We have received again with shock the killings of 20 Christians in the early hours of today through violent attacks on seven villages of the Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area," Gyang said, expressing sadness that the attacks took place in spite of peace talks with Fulani herdsmen. "The renewed attacks are least expected at a time that concerted peace efforts and dialogue meetings are on-going between Berom and Fulani stakeholders."
Muslim Fulani herdsmen also launched attacks last week in Taraba State in northeast Nigeria. In the Christian community of Sarkin Kudu in the Ibi LGA, nine Christians were killed on Sept. 15, said the Rev. Caleb Ahema, President of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN).
The attack on Sarkin Kudu occurred at about 3 a.m. and resulted in the wounding of most of the village's women and children.
"The attack on Sarkin Kudu is a continuation of the systematic attacks by the Fulani herdsmen on Christian communities in this area, where many have been killed and many more displaced," Ahema said.
The victims of the attack were all members of the Universal Reformed Church (NKST), said Ahema, who is also the chairperson of the area Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
Local church leaders have said in recent months that more than 200,000 Christians have been displaced from the area after their houses were burned down.
Joseph Kwaji, police public relations officer in the state, confirmed the attack on Sarkin Kudu town and the murder of the nine Christians.
"Nine persons were killed there, but we are still investigating the incident," Kwaji told Morning Star News by phone. He added that an undisclosed number of people were wounded in the attack.
Last month in In Nasarawa state, armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kofar Gwari village of Kokona LGA on Aug. 16 killed two Christians and injured many others. Reports from church leaders in the state show the assailants invaded as Christians were preparing to attend morning worship services.
The dead were identified as Yaweh Oshawu and Idi Ibrahim, both members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). Among the injured was church member Safiyanu Maidoki and an unidentified pastor. Bishop Joseph Masin, chairperson of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nasarawa state chapter, told Morning Star News that there has been a series of such attacks on Christian communities in the state over the years.
"Christian communities in Nasarawa state are facing severe persecution now more than at any other time history," said Masin, who is also bishop of the Word of God Ministries, Lafia.
Ismaila Numan, police public relations officer, Nasarawa State Command, told Morning Star News that an investigation was underway.