The communications director of the Catholic diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria has confirmed that a bride-to-be and her bridal party were beheaded December 26 while en route to the December 31 wedding.
“They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,” Father Francis Arinse told Catholic News Service (CNS), regarding the alleged murders of Martha Bulus and her bridal party.
CNS reported further the alleged murders of Bulus and her bridal party occurred on the same day that 11 Christian aid workers had been murdered:
Several international media outlets reported Dec. 26 that the Islamic State group released a video showing it had beheaded 10 Christians and shot an 11th Dec. 26. The news agencies said they were unable to confirm the contents of the video but described the victims as men. IS said the beheadings were payback for the late-October killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghadi.
According to the Christian Post, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, a Boko Haram “breakaway group” associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the beheadings of the Christians shown in the video.
The voice continued:
Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them.
The video, which reportedly showed one Christian aid worker being shot and ten others beheaded, was published by the Islamic States’ propaganda media outlet, Amaq News Agency.
Arinse said Bulus had been his parishioner at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Maiduguri when he first became a priest.
According to Arinse’s report, the area has seen a number of abductions recently and government security has not been sufficient.
CNS noted that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff in Nigeria, has said he is ordering greater security in the area and has urged his troops to “stand firm against all the criminals.”
In December, the U.S. State Department said it had added Nigeria, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, to the Special Watch List of governments “that have engaged in or tolerated ‘severe violations of religious freedom.’”
According to the Post, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said:
We are designating [Nigeria] special watch list for the first time because of all of the increasing violence and communal activity and the lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country.
It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria. The government has either not been willing to or have been ineffective in their response and the violence continues to grow.
The Post noted that Nigeria “ranks as the 12th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.”