ABUJA, Nigeria (Christian Daily International–Morning Star News) – Following the killing of 10 Christians in Benue state, Nigeria earlier this month, another five were slain in subsequent attacks in another area, sources said.
Days before a Jan. 18 attack on Okokolo village, Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists wounded or kidnapped Christians, damaged properties and displaced hundreds of others in raids on eight other villages in Agatu County, Benue state, area resident James Ejeneh said.
Ejeneh identified the eight villages as Abugbe, Ugboju, Odugbeho, Ogwumogbo, Ejima, Ogbeyi, Ocholonya and Olegobidu. The chairman of the Agatu Local Government Council, Yakubu Ochepo, said the villages were under siege for six days, forcing Christians to flee to Okokolo on Jan. 18.
“However, Okokolo was not the safe haven the people thought it was, as the herdsmen invaded Okokolo community and attacked the people there on Thursday, 18 January,” Ochepo told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.
He said five Christians were killed by herdsmen and many others were wounded, but it was not clear if all five lost their lives in Okokolo.
Mike Inalegwu, an area resident and former commissioner, concurred that, “Apart from the five Christians killed by the herdsmen, others were also abducted and taken away.”
Joseph Har, special adviser to the Benue state governor on security and internal affairs, confirmed the attacks to Christian International Daily-Morning Star News, as did Sam Ode, state deputy governor, and Ojotu Ojema, a pastor and member of the National Assembly.
Two soldiers and a member of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps were reportedly killed in efforts to defend Okokolo.
“On inquiry, the troops were informed that terrorists suspected to be armed herdsmen were advancing towards the town to attack it,” Maj. Gen. Sunday Igbinomwanhia said in a press statement. “The troops immediately mobilized and proceeded to the community, which is about 15 kilometers from their base. The attack was successfully repelled with the terrorists withdrawing in disarray while evacuating their dead and wounded. The success achieved was, however, at a huge cost, with three of the troops paying the supreme sacrifice to prevent the killing of the inhabitants of Okokolo and the intended sacking of the community.”
Armed assailants on Jan. 7 had killed 10 Christians in three villages in Logo County, Benue state.
Nigeria remained the deadliest place in the world to follow Christ, with 4,118 people killed for their faith from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023, according to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) report. More kidnappings of Christians than in any other country also took place in Nigeria, with 3,300.
Nigeria was also the third highest country in number of attacks on churches and other Christian buildings such as hospitals, schools, and cemeteries, with 750, according to the report.
In the 2024 WWL of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria was ranked No. 6, as it was in the previous year.
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
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