Onitsha, Nigeria, Jul 31, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).
An estimated 3,462 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021, according to a new study.
This equates to 17 Christians being murdered every day in Africa’s most populous country, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.
The study by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) in Onitsha, eastern Nigeria, said that the figure included 10 priests and pastors who were murdered between Jan. 1 and July 18.
“The number of defenseless Christians hacked to death by Nigeria’s Islamic jihadists and their collaborators in the security forces in the past 200 days … has risen to no fewer than 3,462 and this is just 68 deaths less than the total deaths of Nigerian Christians in 2020, which the Open Doors’ World Watch List of Persecuted Christians put at 3,530,” Intersociety said.
The figure is the second-highest since 2014 when more than 5,000 Christian deaths were recorded at the hands of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, the Intersociety study noted.
The report indicated that Boko Haram, one of Africa’s largest Islamist groups, was responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 Christians in 2014. Fulani herdsmen, who have clashed frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land, accounted for an additional 1,229 deaths that year.
“In our last report issued on May 11, 2021, covering January to April 2021, we found that no fewer than 1,470 Christians were hacked to death and in the past 80 days — or May 1 to July 18, 2021 — not less than 1,992 Christian lives have been lost,” said the report issued on July 18.
Intersociety is a research and investigative rights group that has monitored religious persecution across Nigeria since 2010.
The human rights group gathers information through contact with victims and eyewitnesses, media tracking, and interviews, among other methods.
Intersociety found that 2,200 Christians were abducted between Jan. 1 and April 30 this year, with a further 780 kidnapped between May 1 and July 18 — a total of 3,000 people seized since the start of 2020.
The investigators said that at least three out of every 30 abducted Christians were likely to have died in captivity, suggesting that some 300 kidnapped Christians died in the first half of this year.
The additional deaths of 150 people were also added to represent what researchers referred to as “dark figures,” meaning deaths that occurred but were not reported.
Around 300 churches have been targeted since January 2021, the investigators said.
They noted that Taraba State, in northeastern Nigeria, was the worst-affected area, with at least 70 churches threatened or attacked.
The report’s authors said it was “deeply saddening” that those responsible for anti-Christian attacks had continued to evade justice, creating a sense impunity and leading to repeated atrocities.
According to the organization, surviving victims and families of murder victims have been totally abandoned by the Nigerian government.
“The country’s security forces have so fumbled and compromised that they hardly intervene when the vulnerable Christians are in danger of threats or attacks, but only emerge after such attacks to arrest and frame up the same population threatened or attacked,” the report said.
It added: “In the north, the jihadists operate freely under the cover and protection of the security forces; abducting, killing, looting, destroying or burning and forcefully converting their captive and unprotected Christians and their homes and sacred places of worship and learning.”
“But the same security forces hatefully and brutally respond with utter ferocity against southern and northern Christians accused of infraction or offending the law.”
According to the report, Fulani herdsmen were responsible for the most killings, having murdered an estimated 1,909 Christians in the first 200 days of this year.
They were followed by Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Muslim Fulani bandits who jointly killed 1,063 Christians.
The report said that the Nigerian army, alongside the Nigeria Police Force and other branches of the armed forces, accounted for 490 Christian deaths.
“The Muslim Fulani bandits, originally formed in [the northwestern] Zamfara State in 2011, are jointly responsible for terrors going on in Christian parts of Southern Kaduna, Niger, FCT [Federal Capital Territory], Nasarawa and Kogi states,” the report said.
The Fulani bandits are also responsible for attacks on indigenous Hausa Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Kebbi.
In Kebbi State, in northwestern Nigeria, Muslim Fulani bandits target and kill or abduct both Christians and Muslims, alleging that the “indigenous Hausa Muslims are not pure Muslims,” the report said.
The bandits are also staging what Intersociety called “ferocious jihadist attacks” against their fellow Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Muslim areas of Kaduna and Niger states.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Agnes Aineah. It has been adapted by CNA.
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