A Catholic priest has described last Sunday’s attacks on villages in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna State as a “massacre” against native people, many of whom are Christian.
An estimated 49 people, including women and children, were killed in a two-hour-long attack by Muslim Fulani herdsman who “came in large numbers and began shooting at anything on sight,” according to the priest, who spoke to Middle Belt Times on condition of anonymity because he serves in the region.
“We have counted 30 dead bodies, mostly women and children, three still missing, while five are receiving treatment in the hospital,” he told the Nigerian news website.
The priest said that at least 20 houses were burned down in the attack, reportedACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.
Nigeria has experienced rising insecurity since 2009, when Boko Haram, one of Africa’s largest Islamist groups, launched an insurgency seeking to turn Africa’s most populous country into an Islamic state.
The group has orchestrated indiscriminate terrorist attacks on numerous targets, including religious and political groups, as well as civilians.
The situation has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani Militia, who have clashed frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.
Pope Francis said that he was praying for victims of the attacks, in an appeal made at the end of his general audience on Sept. 28.
“I learned with sorrow of the news of the armed attacks last Sunday against the villages of Madamai and Abun, in northern Nigeria,” he said.
“I pray for those who have died, for those who were wounded, and for the entire Nigerian population. I hope that the safety of every citizen might be guaranteed in the country.”
Other villages in Kaduna State were also attacked on the evening of Sept. 26 and into the morning of Sept. 27, resulting in more deaths, injuries, and abductions.
According to reports, 27 members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) were abducted and one member killed in a Sept. 26 attack on the Gabachuwa community in the southern part of Kaduna State.
“The predominantly Christian ethnic minority tribes who inhabit the southern part of the state have experienced relentless attacks since 2011, with a significant uptick following the advent of the current administration in 2015,” the human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a Sept. 28 statement.
CSW said that Kaduna State was currently “an epicenter of kidnapping and banditry activity.”