UP TO 135 people are believed to have been killed by gunmen in Plateau State, central Nigeria, in the latest of a string of attacks on civilians.
The attackers, who are said to have arrived by motorcycle, fired indiscriminately, burnt homes, and stole livestock in the predominantly Christian villages.
A traditional ruler in the area told the BBC Hausa service that the bodies of 54 people had already been found in the village of Kukawa, and 34 in that of Gyambau. More villagers, mostly women, are believed to have been abducted.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which monitors persecution against Christians, said that the attacks were the latest in a surge of violence by Fulani militia targeting non-Muslim communities.
Speaking to CSW, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Dr Benjamin Kwashi, said: “The massacre in the Kanam areas was the most horrendous, unexpected surprise attack. Kanam is a mixed community where Christians and Muslims have been living together for hundreds of years. The two ruling houses, one Christian, one Muslim, have always interchanged. So this is not an issue between either of the communities because they are so mixed that separating them is difficult. This is definitely an unwarranted attack on a very peaceful community. My heart goes out to the families that are bereaved right now, to the wounded.”
Release International, which supports victims of persecution, said that attacks on Christians in Nigeria were being reported on a daily basis. Its CEO, Paul Robinson, said: “Many are going unreported by the world and unchecked by the federal government. A sense of outrage is growing among ordinary Nigerians, who fear that government inaction is colluding with the terrorists.
“Nigeria has an obligation to protect its villages and safeguard their lives — whether from the forces of lawlessness and banditry, or from Islamist militias. That so many of the villages under attack are predominantly Christian, and so many of the attackers or either Islamist terrorists or Islamist militia, points to a religious dimension behind the violence.”
Members of the Christian community recently staged a protest in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, to demand justice for Christians killed by militia.