Benue state hit by multiple attacks.By Our Nigeria Correspondent
JOS, Nigeria, April 25, 2018 (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Tuesday (April 24) attacked a Roman Catholic Church service in central Nigeria, killing two priests and 17 other parishioners during an early morning Mass, sources said.
In Ayar-Mbalom village in Benue state, the assailants shot dead the Rev. Joseph Gor and the Rev. Felix Tyolaha of St. Ignatius Quasi Catholic Parish, Ukpor, Ayar-Mbalom in the Gwer East area, according to police and church officials.
The attack occurred at about 5 a.m., according to a statement from the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, signed by the Rev. Amos Mbachie and the Dean of Ikpoyongo Deanery of the Makurdi Catholic Diocese, the Rev. Richard Igyor.
“The herdsmen stormed the church during morning Mass and shot the victims dead,” the statement read.
The Fulani herdsmen who attacked the Christian community also destroyed houses and crops, the Rev. Moses Iorapuu, spokesman for the Catholic Doicese of Makurdi, said in a press statement. He said that in spite of incessant attacks by the herdsmen on Christian communities in the area, the Nigerian government and its security agencies are unable to contain the assaults.
“The attack on the priests is an attack on everything that we ever stood for and believed in,” he said.
The corpses of those killed have been taken to a St. Theresa’s Hospital in Makurdi, he added.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement saying the unprovoked attacks were attempts by unscrupulous elements in the country to ignite sectarian crisis.
“This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable,” he said. “Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting.”
Five days earlier, 10 Christians were reportedly killed in Saghev village in the Guma area of Benue state. Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked on Friday night (April 20), officials said.
“Ten corpses have so far been recovered, with many others injured,” Terver Akase, a spokesman for the Benue governor, said in a statement. “The armed herdsmen also burnt numerous houses, shops and other property in the area. This mindless attack was unprovoked, and we urge security agencies to arrest the herdsmen behind the killings for prosecution.”
The previous night (April 19), Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Benue state’s Anyiin village killed 25 Christians, area resident James Tsave told Morning Star News by phone. The assailants set fire to 30 houses, destroying them, he said.
“Twenty-five Christians have been killed, and those of us who survived have been forced to flee our village,” Tsave said.
He identified some of those killed as Terwase Osu, Uzenda, Chafu and Mbaya.
On April 10 in Gbeji village in Benue state’s Ukum area, Muslimi Fulani herdsmen killed about 30 Christians in an attack at about 6 p.m., an area resident told Morning Star News. Victor Aandooka, 45, said by phone that herdsmen attacked a Catholic church building and then set fire on houses, “shooting at anyone in sight.”
“About 30 Christians in our community were killed by the herdsmen,” he told Morning Star News, adding that many displaced Christians have fled to other areas, including the town of Makurdi.
Herdsmen attacks in the first three weeks of April are believed to have caused the death of more than 250 Christians in Benue state, according to local media reports.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.