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Fear grips Christian villages after Terrorists Assassinate Mayor South of Jos

JOS—Mr. Amos Akila, the mayor of the Mazat community, is among 7 recent victims of land-grabbing terrorists laying waste to dozens of villages in Plateau State in North Central Nigeria, according to lawmakers speaking to Truth Nigeria.

Akila was murdered June 27 while handling farming chores on his farm in Barkin Ladi County in verdant Plateau State.  The death of Mayor Akila along with the death of 6 other farming residents in neighboring Mangu County has heightened concerns that terrorists are attempting to seize control of villages throughout the state and enforce Islamic rule in the region.

As of July 3rd, there have been no confirmed attacks in any of the 15 villages mentioned in the alert published by Truth Nigeria on July 1, however, the attacks in Barkin Ladi and Mangu counties on June 27 are evidence that terrorists are planning to target additional villages in the area located 35 miles south of the capital city, Jos, according to intelligence sources speaking to Truth Nigeria on background.

Police and young adults patrol Funzai village in Mangu County, Plateau State on 17 May after 50 residents were killed the previous day. Photo by Masara Kim

Regional Displacement Campaign

Six  residents were killed in Mangu County on June 27,  ten miles away from the Mayor Akila’s farm,  within hours of Akila’s murder, just days after State Governor Caleb Mutfwang expressed concern that the terror raids, which have claimed the lives of more than 502 residents since January according to Intersociety, are aimed at religious cleansing.

The terrorists raided the farming village of Pushit, in Mangu County, around 10 pm local time on July 1, intending to find remaining Christians according to locals. But when they discovered that there were none, they resorted to burning houses, said Alexandria Dyendi, a displaced resident speaking to Truth Nigeria by text messages.

“The Fulanis burned all of our houses and we are completely helpless and homeless,” she wrote. The burnings occurred merely three days after six residents, including four members of a single family, were killed in a cluster of villages known as Kerang, in Mangu County,  located 5 miles away according to Bala Fwangje, a member of the Plateau State Legislature representing Mangu.

[map courtesy of Stefanos Foundation]

Witnesses told Truth Nigeria that dozens of Fulani-speaking terrorists, armed with automatic rifles, launched an attack on the villages of Konji and Kerang Tsoho in Mangu County, around 10 pm local time. At the time of the assault, the approximately 300 residents of the two villages were preparing to sleep. Sunday Dankaka, the youth leader of Mangu, who witnessed the attack, said civilian watchers engaged in a prolonged battle using homemade single-shot rifles, slowing down the invasion and allowing women and children to escape, resulting in fewer casualties.

“They first came around 6 pm and hid in the mountains surrounding the villages,” Dankaka said. “We reported to security forces and started making local arrangements to ward off the threat but by 10pm, we started hearing gunshots,” Dankaka said in a telephone interview with Truth Nigeria.

“Our youths did their best, but one man and his son were killed in Kerang Tsoho, and four members of a family were killed in Konji before they could escape,” he said.

The attack came hours after the brutal murder of the mayor Akila of Mazat, an area of ten villages in the Barkin Ladi county.  The mayor  was attacked in his farm shortly before midday according to his son, Mabweh Akila who witnessed the incident.

“They came on three motorcycles – three to one – all of them armed,” Akila told Truth Nigeria. “They all had guns,” Akila said. “They passed many people on their farms and left without hurting me or anyone else after firing several bullets to his chest,” he said in a distraught voice.

The attack has sent the 10,000 residents in the area into fear and apprehension, causing many to relocate to safer zones. Close to 10 residents were killed in the area between 18 and 23 June.

Crop Destruction Aimed at Hunger Strategy

On July 1st, approximately 30 miles southwest of Jos, Fulani terrorists allegedly targeted Christians working on their farms, as stated by a tribal leader Rwang Tengwong in an interview with Truth Nigeria. According to Tengwong, the terrorists, armed with assault rifles, resorted to destroying crops across more than 150 acres of farmland belonging to Christians after failing to locate Christian victims during the afternoon raid.

“They came shooting and despoiling crops, but our people had anticipated their coming and avoided the farms,” Tengwong said, noting the incident was the latest attempt at waging a hunger war against residents. More than 3000 acres of crop farms have been despoiled across the State since January in similar raids, he said.

Photo illustrating 150 acres of corn despoiled in Riyom County on 1 July. Photo by Solomon Mwantiri.

A day prior to the incident, another group of terrorists allegedly set ablaze over 40 houses as they pursued Christians in the eastern area of Mangu county. Attacks in Mangu had been ongoing since May 16th, resulting in the death of more than 200 residents according to reports. More than 30,000 residents have also been displaced from at least 30 villages, local media have reported.  Thousands of Christians displaced by ongoing violent attacks in central Nigeria’s Plateau State since May 16th have yet to return home.

During the last 14 years, more than 1000 Christian villages have been captured by the terrorists across Nigeria, resulting in the deaths of at least 53,750 residents, according to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), an international nonprofit organization that tracks crimes. So far this year, the death toll from ongoing attacks has surpassed 2500, as reported by Intersociety which records that 20 percent of the fatalities  were logged in Plateau State.

Governor Calls out Anti-Christian Pogrom

 Newly elected Plateau Governor Caleb Mutfwang denounced the attacks as an organized effort to ethnically cleanse Christian residents from his majority-Christian state.

“What we are seeing is clear orchestrated genocide,” said Mutfwang who took charge of the State on 29 May. “What we are seeing is a plan to wipe out numbers of [Christians],” Mutfwang said, disputing popular claims including by the U.S. State Department that the attacks are part of ongoing clashes between local farmers and herders.

“A situation where people are sleeping in their houses and are killed in the night cannot be said to be a clash,” he said.

The attacks in Plateau State and other states in the middle belt region have been attributed to herding groups belonging to the Fulani ethnic group. The Fulani tribe, primarily consisting of Muslims, reportedly has over 10 million members in Nigeria. A radicalized subgroup of this ethnicity has been accused of causing three times more Christian casualties compared to Boko Haram in recent years.

“[Communities] are more [vulnerable] when the leader is killed,” wrote Senator Simon Mwadkwon who represents Plateau north at the Nigerian Senate.

“When the captain of the ship is dead, the ship is likely to sink,” wrote Mwadkon in a text message to Truth Nigeria. “For him [mayor] to have been singled out and killed shows the killers planned this dastardly act,” Mwadkwon wrote, alleging the goal of terrorists attacking town leaders is to seize and enslave communities.

Global rights activists have called for local and international interventions to stop the spreading violence and avert an Islamic caliphate in Africa’s most populous country.

“I think we ought to believe the political leaders speaking about the violence in Nigeria,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians.

“As Plateau’s Governor Caleb Mutfwang has claimed, the violence currently raging in his state, Benue and elsewhere in Nigeria is not ‘farmer/herder clashes’ over tribal or ethnic loyalties and sparse resources,” said Laugesen in a statement to Truth Nigeria.

“It is, without doubt, genocidal Jihad targeting peaceful, often sleeping or worshiping, Christian farmers with intent to exile them and take their property,” Laugesen said.

“Indeed, former Kaduna Governor Nasir El Rufai recently confirmed these allegations in remarks made to a so-called ‘friendly’ audience. It’s way past time for the international community to stop giving cover to the jihadists at the helm in Nigeria and recognize the violence for what it is—the slaughter of Christians and any moderate Muslims who get in the way,” she noted.

Judd Saul, the founder and Chief Executive of Equipping the Persecuted, a U.S. based nonprofit in Iowa also told Truth Nigeria, “There is no need for this senseless violence.”

“I’d like to plead with the leadership in the Nigerian government to stand up and defend the innocent,” wrote Saul in a text message.

“The world is watching,” Saul texted.

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Masara Kim is an award-winning conflict reporter based in Jos, Nigeria. 

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1 COMMENT

  1. My heart is broken!The Berom people have been known to be peace loving and accommodating, but in recent years, our peace have been threatened and our way of life have been shattered by the Fulani Herders and Marauders. What is most concerning is that the Nigerian Government has remained silent over the injustice being carried in Berom Land. Our crops are being destroyed on our farm land by Fulani herdsmen, and people have been killed, leaving women as widows and children as orphans. Mothers are forced to bury their children young; women are being raped and forced into early marriages, Children are being trafficked and forced out of school because of security concerns. Yet, no one has been arrested, prosecuted nor convicted for these atrocities.
    Often our people are told to be patient. But for how long are we going to be patient, while our people are continually being killed? Our land is being taken over, yet the government chooses to look the other way.
    The loss of lives and properties continues unabated with the government providing no security to our people. Currently over 55 Berom villages have been taken over by the Fulani people. The right for security is the right for every individual, but our fundamental rights are being continually trampled upon without any. Many of our people have become refugees in our land, with no one coming to their aid.
    I am calling on the international committee to intensify pressure on the Nigerian Government to give everyone the equal opportunity to exist, return our ancestral land back to us, arrest the perpetrators of the crime against my people.

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