Islamic jihadists murdered at least 1,470 Christians and abducted over 2,200 in Nigeria in the first four months of this year, a report has revealed. More than half of the killings were carried out by Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
The number of Christians murdered within the first four months of this year is the highest since 2014 and goes beyond the total number of Christians killed in 2019, a Nigerian civil society group, Intersociety Rule of Law, says in a report released this week.
Northwestern Kaduna state recorded the highest number of Christian deaths, at 300, according to the investigation which took weeks to compile all of the killings in the majority Christian areas of the country.
The north-central Benue state witnessed 200 murders of Christians, followed by the central Plateau state with 90 Christian deaths, says Intersociety, an organization headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi.
The northern Muslim-controlled Nigerian Army also killed at least 120 Christians in the states of Benue, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi, it adds.
Of the 2,200 Christians abducted, Kaduna state recorded the highest number with 800 abductions. Out of these 800 Christians abducted, 600 were indigenous Christians, “including those abducted in Muslim-held areas of Birnin-Gwari, Igabi and Giwa Local Government Areas.”
Niger state recorded the second largest number of Christian abductees, at 300.
Through interviews and open-source reports, the group learned that “220 Christians are most likely to have died or been killed in captivity of their abductors.”
“This represents 10% of 2,200 abducted Christians across the country, especially Christian travelers and rural others among them are male and young female farmers including those abducted and raped to death or killed after being raped,” explains the report, which relies on what it deems to be credible local and foreign media reports, government accounts, reports from international rights groups and eyewitness accounts to compile statistical data.
The report notes that the Nigerian government falsely claims that the high number of murders and abductions in the country can be attributed mostly to “herder-farmer clashes” and not due to religious motives.
Nigeria’s federal government and the governments of the affected states “have made several deliberate attempts to cover the egregious and grisly massacre of Christians in Nigeria by falsely labeling them as ‘herders-farmers clashes,’ or attacks by ‘bandits,’ or ‘killings that cut across Muslims and Christians,” it says.
To explain that, the report categorized the “non street crimes’ butcheries ravaging the country” into: “(1) killings with disproportionate reprisals by Fulani Muslim Bandits against Hausa Muslims (Yansakai), (2) killings and acutely disproportionate reprisals by Fulani Muslim Herdsmen against indigenous Christians in the North and nowadays Southwest, Southeast and South-south, and (3) killings and zero reprisals by Fulani, Kanuri and Shuwa Arab (with some Hausa Muslim foot soldiers) controlled Boko Haram, Ansaru and others against Christians, moderate Muslims and Government targets.”
The report adds, “Apart from killings, maiming and abductions by the … Jihadist groups, Governments and local institutions in the Muslim-controlled northern States are also making life very unbearable for their indigenous Christians communities. These include Katsina State where under-age Christian girls are forcefully married to Muslim men and converted to Islam.”
The Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third-most affected country by terrorism and reported over 22,000 deaths by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019.
The U.S. Commission on International and Religious Freedom’s 2021 report warned that Nigeria “will move relentlessly toward a Christian genocide” if action is not taken.
Islamic extremism, particularly in northeast Nigeria, has led to thousands of deaths and millions displaced in recent years.
Nigeria was the first democratic nation to be added to the U.S. State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in “tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”