Nigeria: Islamist Herdsmen Kill Dozens in Latest Anti-Christian Massacre

Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP / Getty Images, file

Nigeria police said on Monday they are investigating no less than 15 murders over the past week in a rural farming community that was attacked by nomadic herdsmen.

Residents of four villages in the state of Nasarawa said they are “under siege” by the herders, who were reportedly enraged when one of their number was killed with a machete early last week.

Central Nigeria is the scene of a long-running conflict between the herders, who mostly hail from a nomadic Muslim tribe called the Fulani, and farmers, who are largely Christian. Christian groups were stunned last year when the Biden administration began insisting there was no strong religious dimension to the violence, and the Biden State Department removed Nigeria from its list of countries that severely violate religious freedom.

Ramhan Nansel, a spokesman for the Nasarawa state police, told Voice of America News (VOA) on Monday that the inciting incident in the current herder-farmer clash was the alleged killing of an 18-year-old herdsman who was struck in the head with a machete last week. Machetes are very common implements of both agriculture and murder in central Nigeria.

Nansel said the official count of reprisal killings stands at 15, although the villagers claim at least 38 people have been murdered, including a church pastor. Nigeria’s Vanguard reported on Monday that the Nasarawa state government supervised a mass burial for 38 victims over the weekend, most of them women and children.

File/People stand near the blood the stained floor after an attack by jihadist gunmen at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo town, southwest Nigeria on June 5, 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

According to the villagers, the death of the 18-year-old herdsman was a matter of self-defense. Herders were allowing their animals to graze on farmland, destroying the crops. When the farmers “asked the suspected Fulanis to take their animals out of the farmland,” the young herder drew his machete and attacked. The farmers said they overpowered and disarmed him in a brawl that ended with the herder’s machete embedded in his own head. Police identified the dead man as Jibo Ali and said he died in the hospital while receiving emergency treatment.

The enraged Fulani counterattacked, then conducted additional reprisal killings in nearby villages where their original victims might have fled. Weapons quickly escalated from machetes to guns.

“In the early hours of Friday, the people of the community were thrown into panic when they discovered a strange dog roaming the streets of Takalafiya, with huge charms round its neck. The community mobilized and killed the dog,” a resident of one village told the Vanguard.

“After they succeeded in killing the dog, as they clustered around the dog wondering where it came from, the herdsmen started shooting sporadically around the community and killed several people,” the resident continued.

Police and state government officials denounced the violence and urged all sides to cooperate with an investigation. The police said thousands of dollars in damage have been inflicted on village property during the conflict, a loss the poor farming community cannot easily absorb.


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