ADAMAWA STATE, Nigeria (BP) — More than 100 Christians have died in December clashes with militant Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, and the military is suspected of aiding the attackers, Christian leaders there told World News.
The attacks began after Fulani herdsmen raped and killed a pregnant mother on her farm in the Numan community of Adamawa, killing her husband and brother when they intervened, chaplain Zenald Zidon said. When Numan community members staged a counterattack, herdsmen responded by ambushing several Adamawa communities beginning Dec. 4.
“The people were killed and their places destroyed,” World News quoted Zidon, chaplain of Unity Chapel in Adamawa’s capital city of Yola. Some of the community members suspected the Nigerian military of aiding the Fulani herdsmen after a military jet bombed a Lutheran church in Shaforon and killed villagers, World News reported.
The herdsmen, who have attacked Christians in an ages-old dispute over land rights, have been accused of aligning with Boko Haram in attacks as early as 2016. Local Christian Association of Nigeria chairman Stephen Mamza reported a death toll of 100 to World News Dec. 12, but said others were still missing and might also be dead.
The Nigerian Air Force mobilized fighter jets to support ground troops working to restore order, state commissioner for information Ahmed Sajoh told reporters.
Felix Samari, communications officer of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria in Adamawa, confirmed to World News the attack on the church in Shaforon. The roof was blown off and the church’s interior was burned; some homes in Shaforon were burned down. Churches of various denominations are aiding survivors of the attacks, providing water and raising money for food, Zidon said.
The herdsmen attack Christians regularly in southern Adamawa, especially during the harvest season, Zidon said. The 2017 Global Terrorism Index said the historical dispute for land rights has worsened this year due to droughts, erratic rainfall and land degradation.
The index described the herdsmen as terrorists as early as 2014, blaming them for nearly 1,250 deaths that year alone, a sharp increase over the 80 deaths they were blamed for in 2013.
Among the herdsmen’s deadliest attacks in Nigeria, the Fulani killed 300 Christians in Benue in February 2016 and killed 200 Christians in Nasarawa in March 2017, it was widely reported. The Fulani are responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths since 2001, according to Global Terrorism Index statistics.