People react as a truck carries the coffins of people killed by the Fulani herdsmen, in Makurdi, Nigeria January 11, 2018. | (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
At least 32 Christians were killed by suspected Fulani extremists in Nigeria Tuesday, sources told a leading Christian persecution monitoring group.
The early-morning attack occurred in the district of Maro in the Kaduna state of north-central Nigeria, according to reports. In addition to the loss of life, homes and at least one church were burned as hundreds were displaced. Some homes even reportedly had sleeping residents inside when they were lit on fire.
“Please pray for peace in Kaduna state — hundreds have been displaced and hundreds killed by the Fulani jihadists,” The Rev. Bakari Ibrahim, director of the ECWA’s Evangelical Missionary Society, told Morning Star News. “We evacuated about a hundred EMS from Kufana for safety.”
Resident Mordecai Funom Ibrahim told the persecution news outlet that about 400 armed Fulanis attacked villages around Maro around 6 a.m. Tuesday.
At the time of the attack, a group of women affiliated with the ECWA had gathered for a meeting at the local church.
“We ran out of the church building as the shooting was going on,” one of the women from the group told Morning Star News. “Many have been killed, and I have not seen my family members since morning. I have escaped out of the area.”
A Kaduna government official confirmed the attack in a statement.
“Today, the Kaduna State government was briefed by security agencies of renewed attacks in Kajuru Local Government Area, and in parts of neighboring Kachia Local Government Area,” Samuel Aruwan, the senior special assistant to the governor, told .
“The state government has been assured that the security agencies are working assiduously to contain the situation. The government is saddened by these attacks, condemns the perpetrators and urges all residents of the area to support the security agencies in their efforts to protect communities.”
The incident was also condemned by the Kaduna chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. The organization warned youths in the area against responding with violence.
“The attackers fled later, they had already burned houses and a church. The youths came out and guard the environment, with the intervention of security. Normalcy has been restored,” The Rev. Joseph Hayab, leader of the state chapter, said. “We have appealed to the youths in the area that there must never be any reprisal. We want to give the security operatives in the state the benefit of the doubt to go after the killers. We don’t want any reprisal attack because the circle of violence and killings will continue.”
The Guardian reports that one credible source puts the death toll at around 28 but noted that others were still missing. The source noted that one police officer was killed and three others were missing.
As a result of the attack, a local boarding school was forced to close down.
Tuesday’s attack follows a Feb. 10 Fulani attack in the same district that killed 10 Catholic Christians along with an unborn child and wounded five others.
A Survivor told Morning Star News that around 11 p.m. that day, a large group of Fulani surrounded the village and killed five of his family members.
“We heard gunshots, and this forced me and my family to remain in our bedrooms as it was difficult for us to run out of the house,” the survivor was quoted as saying. “The Fulani gunmen surrounded our house and were shooting and shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [Allah is greater].’ They killed my father, mother, two brothers, and one of my sisters-in-law.”
Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List. Last year was a deadly one for Nigerian Christians as thousands were killed by Fulani radicals.
“What is happening in Plateau state and other select states in Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately,” Christian Association of Nigeria and church denominational heads in Plateau State said in a joint last year.