JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Still shocked over a deadly attack on a Catholic congregation on Tuesday (April 24), Christians in Nigeria’s Benue state yesterday suffered another onslaught by Muslim Fulani herdsmen that reportedly left at least 39 people dead.
More than 160 houses also were reported to have been set ablaze in heavily armed attacks that began late Tuesday night in the Guma area on predominantly Christian Tse-Umenge, Mbakpase and Tse-Ali villages. Dozens of Christians were wounded, and at this writing the total number of those killed was not confirmed.
The area is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the Gwer East area attacks that took place the day before.
A resident of Mbakpase, Alice Terwase, told Morning Star News that the herdsmen who invaded her community were dressed in military camouflage and armed with AK-47 weapons.
“The herdsmen destroyed more than 60 houses in our village, and three members of my community were also killed during the attack,” Terwase said by phone. “At Tse-Ali village, more than 70 houses were set ablaze and 21 Christians killed. All affected victims are members of NKST [Universal Reformed Christian Church, or Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar] church, and the Roman Catholic Church in the affected communities.”
John Umenge, of Tse-Umenge village, told Morning Star News that more than 50 houses were burned down by the herdsmen in his community.
“More than 15 Christians were killed and 50 houses destroyed by the herdsmen,” Umenge said. “The attacks began around 11 p.m. on Tuesday night and lasted to the early hours of today [Wednesday].”
The attacks by the herdsmen have led to protests in Makurdi, the Benue state capital.
Pastors and church leaders could not be reached for comment as Benue state is engulfed in a state of emergency.
Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Wednesday (April 25) suspended session and invited President Muhammadu Buhari to explain why the attacks have persisted.
Akpen Leva, chairman of the Benue state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), last month said the herdsmen had destroyed 500 church buildings since 2011 with attacks that have displaced 170,000 people.
Assault on Displaced
Seven Christians among several hundred taking refuge in a church building were killed shortly after midnight last night by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, a local official said.
The attack on the displaced Christians took place at the African Church in Mbamondo village, in the Logo area of Benue state.
“The attack carried out by the herdsmen in the church premises of the African Church in Mbamondo took place at about 12:20 a.m.,” Richard Nyajo, council chairman of Logo Local Government Area told Morning Star News by phone. “Seven Christian villagers who were displaced in previous attacks and were taking refuge in the church premises were killed.”
The assailants set houses on fire and were armed with deadly weapons, he said. The wounded have been transferred to a hospital Makurdi.
Christians in Nigeria plan a nationwide protest on Sunday (April 29) against attacks on Christian communities.
CAN leaders directed all churches in the country to hold peaceful protests following the attack on the Catholic church in Benue state that killed two priests and 17 parishioners. The protests also are planned to object to the continued captivity of the only Christian girl kidnapped by Boko Haram from Dapchi School, Leah Nathan Sharibu, and the remaining Christians girls abducted from a Chibok high school four years ago.
“CAN urges Christians in Nigeria to hold peaceful protests on the set aside date in the premises of their churches, asking the Federal government and the security agencies to stop the unending killings and bloodshed in the country,” the Rev. Supo Ayokunle, president of CAN, said in a statement. “Christians are to carry placards with inscriptions meant to address issues about sustained killings, attacks and destruction of their property in Nigeria.”
The government should be called upon to perform its constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens now, Ayokunle said.
“No excuse should be given for this wicked act again, and perpetrators must be brought to book now,” he said. “CAN seizes this medium to appeal to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to mount different effective plans aimed towards disarming herdsmen across the northern states and in communities where they have been wreaking havoc across the country in national interest.”
The failure of the government to stop the killings by herdsmen is the reason they have continued to kill, he said.
“The association also calls on the heads of the security agencies to wake up to their constitutional role of protecting lives and property across the federation while preventing Nigeria from descending into chaos and a lawless country,” he said. “CAN recalls with pains, disappointments, and worries how Nigerians in the North East, Middle Belt and southern parts of Nigeria become visibly endangered with sustained attacks from Boko Haram, herders and armed bandits.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.