Nigeria: 5 churches burned, many Christians killed in Boko Haram invasion

Religion
General view of a church that residents say was burned by Boko Haram militants is seen in Damasak March 24, 2015. | REUTERS/Joe Penney

More than 100 Boko Haram militants opened fire sporadically and indiscriminately and set churches and houses on fire, killing many people, in the town of Garkida in Gombi area of the northeastern state of Adamawa, according to initial reports.

At least five churches were destroyed, including two houses of worship belonging to the Church of the Brethren denomination, an Anglican Communion church, and a church and a separate office of Living Faith Church.

There are unconfirmed reports of possible abductions.

Riding on about 60 motorbikes, with two men each carrying AK47s and RPGs, and accompanied by roughly 20 mounted gun trucks, the Boko Haram militants arrived from the Sambisa Forest area on Friday evening, according to Save the Persecuted Christians.

Nigerian security forces initially fought with the attackers but had to retreat for reinforcement. The militants then advanced to neighboring towns and carried out attacks. Civilians fled to a nearby mountain area and into bushes.

“Garkida is currently on fire … many people have been killed and their houses covered with smoke,” TheCable quoted a source as saying.

“People ran to hide inside the mountains while they watched their houses being burnt by the insurgents,” a resident added.

The Catholic Women’s Conference, an annual large gathering in Gardika, was scheduled for Friday evening and the women were still arriving when the attack took place.

The attack possibly carried on until at least Saturday, when ait.live reported that “the insurgents are exchanging gun fire with the local vigilante and security operatives deployed to the area.”

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Earlier this month, suspected Boko Haram militants burned and killed at least 30 people, including a pregnant woman and her baby, and abducted others in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. The militants set the sleeping travelers on fire in the Auno village of Borno state as they were camping out for the night after missing an evening curfew in the state capital of Maiduguri, about 10 miles away.

Boko Haram is an Islamic militant insurgency responsible for killing tens of thousands and displacing millions in the last decade-plus. The terrorist group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2016 but soon splintered after Islamic State leadership tried to replace Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. 

Although the Nigerian government claims to have defeated Boko Haram militarily, Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province continue to carry out attacks in Borno.

Boko Haram over the years has abducted hundreds of school girls. The group has also abducted pastors and others in attempts to raise funds through ransom payments.

Last month, Boko Haram executed Rev. Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s chapter in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State. Andimi was kidnapped in early January and was seen in a ransom video praising God before his death.

Also in January, the Islamic State released a propaganda video purporting to show the killing of a Nigerian Christian university student by a child soldier. In December, the Islamic State faction claimed to have killed 11 Christian aid workers in Nigeria in retaliation for the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism, and Aviation, recently accused former U.S. President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of their “sheer wickedness” in helping Boko Haram by “funding and supporting” the 2015 election of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who later canceled contracts to eradicate the terrorists, LifeSite reported.

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“What Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton did to Nigeria by funding and supporting Buhari in the 2015 presidential election and helping Boko Haram in 2014/2015 was sheer wickedness and the blood of all those killed by the Buhari administration, his Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram over the last 5 years are on their hands,” Fani-Kayode wrote on Facebook.

The Nigerian government has faced international criticism for an ineffective response to the increasing violence carried out by Boko Haram factions and Fulani radical attacks. Insecurity has led to Nigeria becoming one of the most dangerous countries to live in the world. 

As Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country in the world on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians are most severely persecuted, Nigeria was added to the U.S. State Department’s special watch list of countries that tolerate or engage in severe violations of religious freedom in December.

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