ABUJA, Nigeria, January 8, 2024 (Christian Daily International–Morning Star News)
Members of an Islamic terrorist group on Friday (Jan. 5) killed a church pastor and 13 other Christians in northeast Nigeria, sources said.
The Rev. Luka Levong of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) was slain on the premises of his church in Kwari town, in Geidam County, Yobe state, while 13 members of his church were killed in their homes, area residents said.
The residents said members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked Kwari at about 1 a.m., but it was not confirmed whether the assailants were members of ISWAP or a faction of Boko Haram, officially called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad.
“The terrorists also set fire on the COCIN church building and destroyed vehicles parked in the premises of the church, and also set fire on the houses of Christians in the town,” area resident Aaron Bwala told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News in a text message.
Bwala and Daniel Alimi, another area resident, said the assailants were members of ISWAP.
“Another heartbreaking development in Yobe state, as Christians have again come under attack from members of ISWAP,” Alimi said. “Among the Christians killed is the COCIN church treasurer, Maina Abdullahi…While the terrorists killed Pastor Levong, his wife and two of their grandchildren escaped unhurt.”
Boko Haram, formerly led by Abubakar Shekau, aligned with ISWAP in 2015, and in August 2016, Islamic State leaders replaced Shekau with Abu Musab al-Barnawi as ISWAP’s leader. A Shekau-led faction broke off into a separate group, reverting back to the name Boko Haram, officially Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad.
Shekau killed himself by detonating a suicide vest on May 19, 2021, during a battle between Boko Haram and ISWAP, according to ISWAP, Nigerian officials, and The Wall Street Journal.
In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index ranked Boko Haram as the deadliest terror group in the world.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married, or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.
In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.
“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted. “This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation… Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”
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Originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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