Herdsmen kill 15 Christians in central Nigeria

National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria.
National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. | (Creative Commons)

Fulani herdsmen killed 15 Christians in a cluster of predominantly Christian villages in central Nigeria’s Benue state Tuesday through Thursday (March 19-21), area sources said.

The herdsmen on Tuesday (March 19) attacked Ijaha village, Apa County, where they killed five Christians and wounded many others, area resident James Okoche told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News in a text message.

“They also burned down houses,” Okoche said.

The herdsmen killed two Christians and injured several others in Apa County’s Ediku Oji and Akpete villages on Wednesday (March 20), and the next day they killed eight Christians in Ugbobi village, Okoche said.

Eche Akpoko, president of the Apa Development Association, confirmed the attacks.

“It has become a recurring problem, and during such attacks children and women have become the majority of the victims killed,” Akpoko told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “A Christian woman went to the farm to harvest some yams on her farm. These terrorists ambushed her and slaughtered her to death.”

It has become dangerous for area Christians who are mainly farmers to go to their lands “as they may never return home alive,” Akpoko said.

Abu Umoru, a Benue state legislator from the area, described incessant attacks in Apa County as genocide against Christians. Christians in the area are under siege from Muslim terrorists collaborating with herdsmen, he said.

Umoru said predominantly Christian villages the terrorists have invaded include Edikwu, Opaha, Odugbo, Akpete, Ikobi, Akpanta, Ochumekwu, Ijaha and Adija.

“They’ve now been destroyed, and Christians who survived the attacks have been forced to flee to other areas,” Umoru said.

The attacks are taking place daily, he said.

“Every day, these terrorists destroy houses of Christians and lay ambush on Christians, killing many of them during these attacks,” Umoru said. “In fact, not less than five Christians are killed daily by terrorists; these killings are terrible. These killings have gone beyond us. We can only cry to God to rescue us.”

Catherine Anene, spokesperson for the Benue State Police Command, said police and other security agencies have deployed personnel to the affected communities in order to curtail the attacks.

Nigeria remained the deadliest place in the world to follow Christ, with 4,118 people killed for their faith from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023, according to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) report. More kidnappings of Christians than in any other country also took place in Nigeria, with 3,300.

Nigeria was also the third highest country in number of attacks on churches and other Christian buildings such as hospitals, schools, and cemeteries, with 750, according to the report.

In the 2024 WWL of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria was ranked No. 6, as it was in the previous year.

Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.

“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.

Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.