After 21 Christians were killed and more than 10 critically injured by Fulani militants in Nigeria last week, local sources said such attacks are becoming more common, and perpetrators are rarely held to account.
The attack in Plateau State took place in the early hours of 10th August when armed Fulani herdsmen set fire to buildings where a community of displaced Christians were staying in Heipang, near the city of Jos in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
Masara Kim, a journalist based in Jos, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that, after setting the houses ablaze, the extremists aimed their assault rifles at those trying to flee the fires.
Mr Kim, who visited the scene following the murders, explained that the victims were “previously displaced from the surrounding villages” and found shelter in Heipang.
He said that about half of the victims “were burnt beyond recognition”, and at least five of them were infants.
Mr Kim added: “It was a heart-breaking scene to witness.
“They were given a mass burial in a rain-soaked mass grave.
“These are poor villagers who do not even have money for food, much less for coffins.”
He underlined that “there were witnesses and there are survivors who saw their family members slaughtered”, but authorities will likely fail to identify the terrorists, as is usually the case.
Father Polycarp Lubo, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Plateau State, said that “systematic killings” like the one last week “have a long history” in the state.
Father Lubo stressed that these atrocities should be investigated, and authorities should identify “the perpetrators of these evil acts” – but arrests are rare, and those in positions of power seldom have the willingness “to say what’s going on”.
He added that Nigerian authorities are not doing anything to help the thousands of Christians in the region who have been displaced after surviving terrorist attacks.
Mr Kim said that out of the many tragic atrocities in Plateau State this year, the deadliest one happened on 15th and 16th May, when Fulani militants killed more than 200 Christians in Mangu, a Local Government Area south-east of Jos.
Both Father Lubo and Mr Kim confirmed that these frequent attacks by Fulani herdsmen are believed to be motivated by a number of factors, including land grabbing and ethnic and religious hostility.