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Terrorist Attacks on Christians in Nigeria Continue

Young Wife Recalls Losing Civilian Volunteer Husband to Terrorist Bullets

By Masara Kim

(Jos) As folks across America soaked in the excitement of the eclipse, Sarah Matur, a young mom of two in Nigeria, grappled with fear and grief. Just a week back, she had knelt helplessly as Mashat, her husband, groaned in pain until his breathing stopped, pierced multiple times by AK 47 rounds in her own backyard.

At 11:07 am local time (1807 GMT) on April 8, the Moon’s shadow enveloped the Pacific coastline of Mexico in complete darkness, initiating a journey across the United States before making a cameo over the Atlantic coast of Canada approximately ninety minutes later.

Nigeria was left out as this breathtaking cosmic show mesmerized millions, offering both business and science opportunities, and sparked celebrations in some American communities.

For Mrs. Matur, though, her happy marriage was still in total eclipse. One week earlier, she with her husband had watched a golden sun sink below the horizon. Their journey together was shattered when terrorists attacked their village of Butura Gida later that night while residents slept.

The temperature was a brisk 65 degrees Fahrenheit just after midnight on April 2nd in the serene hilltop village, located 45 miles south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State. Startled awake by the sound of gunfire, Mr. Matur Mashat, 43, a daring community leader, grabbed his hunting rifle and rushed to confront the intruders.

Butura Gida, part of a cluster of villages known as Butura, sits along a dirt road leading to the southwestern border of Plateau with Nasarawa State. The area has been pock-marked by armed invasions for a year including 50 during a six-day period now marked as “Black Christmas.”

TruthNigeria estimates approximately 3,000 armed terrorists rampaged through 36 villages in Bokkos County from December 23, claiming more than 295 lives by December 29 according to monitoring groups. Witnesses across the region heard the attackers speaking the Fulani dialect.

The Fulani, a vast nomadic tribe with over 20 million members in West Africa and 10 million in Nigeria, are traditionally known for cattle herding. In recent years, the tribe has produced some of the country’s most elite political leaders. Some have faced accusations of complicity or support for Fulani militants labeled as the fourth deadliest terror group globally in 2014.

In recent years, Fulani militants have been implicated in six times as many Christian deaths as Boko Haram, with over 8,222 fatalities recorded between January 2023 and January 2024, according to Intersociety, an international monitoring group.

On January 17, in one of their most intense encounters, 15 volunteers successfully repelled a force of more than 300 armed terrorists in the north of Butura, killing myriads of attackers. Despite losing seven men in the eight-hour battle, these volunteers, armed with homemade single-shot pipe guns and hunting rifles, saved the lives of more than 2,000 returning residents out of 5,000 who had fled to emergency camps during Black Christmas.

On the fateful early hours of April 2nd, Mashat understood the gravity of the situation. Just a month earlier, two of his comrades were killed near his home on February 29. Nevertheless, he made the brave choice to fight, recognizing that the survival of 200 returning women and children depended on his courage.

“I asked him to stay back, but he insisted,” said his widowed wife to TruthNigeria. “I tried to stop him, holding him by the hand, but he pushed my hand off and shut the door as he walked out of the room,” Mrs. Matur recalls.

Mrs. Matur tells TruthNigeria her husband died trying to protect his village of 500 residents. Credit: Masara Kim.
Mrs. Matur tells TruthNigeria her husband died trying to protect his village of 500 residents. Credit: Masara Kim.

At the time — around 1:15 a.m., Victor Sule, a member of Mashat’s team, lay wounded near Mashat’s house, blood gushing. He was the first victim of an approaching squad of eight Fulani riflemen, according to self-defense team leader Markus Musa.

Sule was shot along with two other colleagues while on duty at the primary school. Musa, positioned just 200 yards away, saw Sule go down after the first blast of rifle fire. Despite Musa’s efforts with his homemade pipe gun to provide cover and rescue his comrades, they were overrun by the terrorists’ automatic gunfire.

“We tried to call for help but got none immediately,” said Musa to TruthNigeria. “He [Mashat] was one of three community members who first responded,” said Musa, who noted that Nigerian soldiers arrived 30 mins later from their base half a mile away after the terrorists had fled.

Mashat, positioned behind a tree in his front yard, gamely attempted to keep firing while aiding the first victim, who was still fighting for his life. However, as he fired his initial shots, he was struck in the chest by two bullets.

When soldiers finally arrived, Mashat lay lifeless at his post. Two other volunteers, Katlong Danjuma, 23, and Zugumnaan Yusuf, 38, who had rushed toward the danger, lay dead just ten yards away.  Sule managed to survive for another 30 minutes before succumbing to his injuries at a local hospital.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring community of Tangur, three more guards were killed around the same time. Both towns are situated half a mile away from a joint military base sheltering hundreds of infantry in Bokkos town.

“It is disheartening that despite ongoing crimes, government security forces have failed to protect and reassure our people of their safety,” wrote the youth leader of Bokkos Cultural Development Council (BCDC), Mr. Farmasum Fuddang in a press statement.

“On the night of the recent attacks in Butura Wur and NNjukudel, advance notices were received, including from the police, yet no action was taken, resulting in the loss of eight lives,” wrote Fuddang, a human-rights activist. He accused the military of increasing the vulnerability of residents by releasing a Fulani militant whom he claimed led an armed attack in the area prior to the April 2 incident. The military and police officials in Plateau State have yet to respond to queries from TruthNigeria.

The attacks are part of an ongoing agenda to grab land and impose extreme Islamic rule in Africa’s most populous country, according to Fuddang.

“These assaults, occurring during Easter celebrations, occurred while our predominantly Christian communities were still reeling from the devastating attacks last Christmas, which claimed over 200 lives. These incidents confirm the religious-cleansing and land-grabbing agenda of the terrorists, who aim to establish a caliphate governed by extreme Islamic ideology,” he said.

Map depicts several of the towns in Bokkos County in Plateau State attacked for six days during Black Christmas. Courtesy of Stefanos Foundation in Jos.
Map depicts several of the towns in Bokkos County in Plateau State attacked for six days during Black Christmas. Courtesy of Stefanos Foundation in Jos.

The attacks came on the heels of ongoing plans by local authorities to return displaced residents back to their homes. The Plateau State commissioner of Information, Ibrahim Ashoms told TruthNigeria government was making efforts to rebuild destroyed homes to enable the displaced residents to return home.

The Nigerian Air Force on April 7 boasted that it had “neutralized” several terrorists in the northeast and northwest of the country. No such air raids have been reported in Plateau and the entire middle belt region where the worst murders and displacements have been observed during the last five years.

Intersociety reports that of the 8,222 Christians killed between January 2023 and January 2024, a staggering 1,450 Christian civilians in Benue were killed, the highest in a single state in the country. Benue’s record casualty list was followed by Plateau State, with 1,400 deaths, and by southern Kaduna, which is also regarded as part of the Middle Belt, with 822 deaths.

Yet, a leaked memo purportedly signed by Police and Secret Service officials in Plateau recently accused residents in Bokkos of establishing militia groups to attack Fulani residents. Fuddang told TruthNigeria his group is planning to sue the authorities for criminal defamation.

Masara Kim is an award-winning conflict reporter and senior editor of TruthNigeria.

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