ROME — Pope Francis denounced the massive slaughter of rice farmers by Islamist terrorists that occurred this past weekend in northeastern Nigeria.
“I want to assure my prayers for Nigeria, where blood has unfortunately been spilled once more in a terrorist attack,” the pontiff said following his weekly general audience in the Vatican Wednesday.
“Last Saturday, in the northeast of the country, more than one hundred farmers were brutally killed,” the pope noted. “May God welcome them in His peace and comfort their families, and convert the hearts of those who commit similar atrocities which gravely offend His name.”
Eyewitnesses to the attack declared that the farmers, who were out working in rice fields in the Garin Kwashebe village, “were rounded up and summarily slaughtered by the armed insurgents.”
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“It was a sad incident that took place at about 11 a.m today,” said Hassan Zabarmari, the former leader of the Borno Farmers Union, on Saturday. “The farmers were attacked at the Garin-Kwashebe rice field, and according to reports reaching us since afternoon, about 40 of them were killed.”
Ahmed Satomi, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, advanced a theory that the militants had attacked the farmers as an act of retaliation for the recent arrest of a Boko Haram gunman who had been harassing them.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been criticized for his inability to curb the violence of Islamist militias in the country, extended his condolences to the victims of the attack and their families, describing the jihadist killings as “senseless.”
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“I condemn the killing of our hardworking farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings,” Mr. Buhari said. “My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace.”
Boko Haram began a bloody insurgency in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria, and its death toll currently stands at over 30,000 people, with another 3 million displaced persons.