Muslim Fulani herdsmen slaughter at least 12 Christians in fresh spate of ethno-religious cleansing

Muslim Fulani herdsmen have slaughtered at least 12 Christians in four villages in Kaduna state, Nigeria in a fresh spate of what Christian leaders described as an ethno-religious cleansing.

(Reuters/Adama Diarra)Cattle herder Boubacar Demba and his children tend to their cattle in Guana, outside Bamako, Mali, November 5, 2016.

In an interview with Morning Star News, Gidan Waya resident Joshua Aku said the Muslim Fulani herdsmen began their rampage in the community of Pasakori on the night of Nov. 23. They reportedly killed their village head, Ayuba Gwafan, and spent an hour slaughtering other Christians and destroying their houses.

On Nov. 25, the Muslim Fulani herdsmen launched another armed assault on Mile One village, killing district head Daniel Akai and five other Christian residents. Aku said the assailants burned houses, the St. Paul's Catholic Church, and the offices of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Gidan Waya District Church Council.

"The attack on Mile One village started at about 3 p.m. and continued until midnight," Aku told Morning Star.

Aku revealed that many residents suspect that military deserters helped the herdsmen in the latest attack because they saw an army helicopter arriving before and after the two attacks.

"Most residents of Gidan Waya believe the herdsmen were brought to the area in a military helicopter and were ferried away soon after perpetuating the atrocities on the Christian communities," Aku added.

Earlier this month, ECWA leaders reported a separate rampage in southern Kaduna which left at least 35 people, including children and women, dead. On Nov. 16, Rev. Zachariah Gado of the ECWA spoke during a press briefing to decry the "campaign of ethno-religious cleansing" launched by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in the region.

Meanwhile, Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai denied the attacks' links to ethnicity and religion. Instead, he told reporters that the armed assault was by the herdsmen and called them "pure banditry," The Nation relays.

In addition, El-Rufai pleaded with Christian leaders to be careful of what they say in light of the attacks. The Kaduna governor urged them to stop sensationalizing the issue and instead fight the problem, adding that his administration had already formed a committee to investigate the string of killings by Muslim Fulani herdsmen.