04/26/2016 Washington D.C.
(International Christian Concern
) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Fulani herders have murdered at least 45 people from communities in Enugu State, southeast Nigeria, destroying homes and burning property.
Sources close to the attack told ICC that Fulani militias assembled 500 attackers in the area 24 hours before striking at least seven predominantly Christian villages in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area (LGA), Nigeria’s equivalent of counties.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing fighters armed with AK-47 assault rifles and machetes, carving a path of destruction through sleepy villages shortly after 7:00 a.m., slaughtering civilians, burning property, and targeting homes and churches.
“I was coming out from the house when I heard the community bell ringing. I was going with a friend to know what the bell was all about, only to see about 40 Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated guns and machetes,” survivor Kingsley Ezugwu told the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard. “They pursued us, killed my friend and shot at me several times but missed. They caught up with me and used machetes on me until I lost consciousness,” he said.
“It’s a serious massacre by a people who revere cows more than human lives,” an Enugu resident told ICC. “About 45 persons were killed, over 100 injured and thousands of those who survived and fled are now refugees in Nsuka town,” the source said.
attackers burned Christ Holy Church International. A source close to the situation also told ICC that the attackers kidnapped one Catholic priest, but his whereabouts and fate remain unknown. Enugu communities are still counting their dead.
“Most of those who were killed died in the early hours of the morning. We are still counting our losses. We have not started going into the farms and bushes to look for our dead brothers and sisters,”
Nimbo community leader Ikwe John Akor said
Enugu State borders Benue State to the southwest, part of a region no longer inside the “Middle-Belt” central region of Nigeria where most Fulani attacks predominate. ICC reported
horrific Fulani attacks in Agatu, Benue State in February, when militias murdered more than 500 people from Christian communities in less than one week.
Fulani Attacks Expanding Southward
Enugu state is part of Nigeria’s southeastern region, south of the states where Fulani herder attacks usually happen. Historically, Islamist Fulani attackers have mostly ravaged Plateau, Adamawa, Nassarawa, Taraba, Benue, and parts of southern Kaduna and southern Borno states, decimating Christian farming communities with mass murder, church destructions, and village burnings.
However, Monday’s attack highlights a disturbing trend that signals the militias are penetrating into southern Nigeria. Enugu State is the second in Southeast Nigeria to suffer Fulani herder attacks in the past month. During the first week of April, ICC learned that Fulani militias overran Ohafia in Abia State, declaring the Christian community part of a “Fulani Republic.”
Throughout the history of brutal Fulani attacks in Nigeria, locals say their goal remains to displace Christians and then occupy territory.
“They launch attacks and they run back [to Nassarawa],” a spokesman for the Movement Against the Fulani Militia, Steven Enada, told ICC. “[Next,] they come in to occupy the community. This is the same track they are using to attack the southeast,” he said.
Nigerian Christians fear that the expanding assaults represent a larger scheme to conquer the country.
“They will conquer the Middle-Belt, Southeast, South-South, and the Southwest will be the last to be conquered,” Enada said.
While Boko Haram continues to grab most of the headlines in Nigeria, the ongoing Fulani herder crisis mounts, increasing body counts and leaving Christian farming communities grieving and displaced, with their homes and livelihoods destroyed.
“Time has far passed for the Nigerian government to step up and address the ongoing Fulani herder attacks on Christian communities in the Middle-Belt and into Southeast Nigeria. How long must we watch and count village after village erased from the map while little is done to promote security for peoples’ lives and property? The Fulani devastation has sadly become a predictable pattern and ICC urges leaders to fulfill their obligation of service to the Nigerian people and take steps to protect suffering citizens,” ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Troy Augustine, said.