A woman local reports have identified only as Bridget was beheaded by an angry Muslim mob in a busy market in Nigeria’s Kano state Thursday after she allegedly blasphemed against Muhammad during a dispute with a customer.
Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper, one of the nation’s largest, provides few details on the incident, little more than the fact that it occurred. The report identifies the location of the incident as the Kofar Wambai market in northern Kano state, “when the activities at the textile hits it’s [sic] peak.” It does not state what the woman said to incur the wrath of the mob, other than the fact that it is believed she committed “blasphemy.”
Nigeria Today identifies the woman as “Bridget,” a plastic seller in the market, while not describing the mode of her murder outside of having her throat slit in front of her husband. This report also accuses her of “blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed” in the context of a dispute with someone else in the market. The attackers, the report notes, were “some youths armed with dangerous weapons.”
Nigeria Today reports that the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for an emergency meeting to discuss the incident and how to prevent similar attacks, though the report does not confirm whether Bridget herself was Christian or merely referred to Muhammad incorrectly in the heat of the moment.
The incident occurs as Nigeria struggles to curb the violent tendencies of a number of its Muslims groups, most famously the Islamic State-affiliated terrorist insurgency Boko Haram and the rural menace of the Fulani herdsmen, who have been massacring Christians for decades in order to steal their land. In Kano, the Muslim Emir has called for moderate adaptations of some Islamic legal codes as a response to the immense poverty that many in Nigeria suffer. Specifically, Emir Muhammad Sanusi is advocating for Nigeria to ban marriages where one or both of the participants are under 18, noting that young marriages typically lead to large families and increased poverty. While he did not challenge the morality of marrying a minor, he noted that the practical aspects of pushing families run by minors into the Nigerian economy can no longer be ignored: “Unfortunately our people do not change and somebody with virtually nothing still give birth to 20 or 30 children and this must stop.”
Child marriages have become a growing problem under Boko Haram’s reign of terror, as the group expressly conducts mass kidnappings of girls to be married off to jihadists and forced to cook and serve as sex slaves for their new owners. The Nigerian government has for months claimed, however, that Boko Haram has been reduced to a minor threat, with President Muhammadu Buhari claiming in December that Nigeria “has won the war” against Boko Haram. Boko Haram is still extremely active in northern Nigeria, particularly in Borno state, where it has its headquarters.
The Nigerian military nonetheless continues to arrest dozens of jihadists in raids of the Sambisa forest. This week, military officials confirmed the arrest of 77 Boko Haram jihadists who surrendered upon being confronted. The raid also liberated 345 captives who must now pass security screenings to ensure they have not been brainwashed into attacking Christians or Nigerian soldiers.
The Nigerian government is also working to confront the Fulani herdsmen, who have taken control of large swathes of land in the center of the country and are threatening to invade the Christian south. While the Fulani herdsmen have been targeting and mass executing Christians for decades, pleas for more help from Buhari’s government have escalated has they have made their way south to Benue state, stealing Christian land and killing villagers with guns and machetes. The Global Terrorism Index reported a marked increase in Fulani herdsmen attacks on Christians in 2014, the latest year in which statistics are available, having killed over 1,000 more people that year than in 2013.