At least 18 people were shot and hacked to death in the northern area of Benue State on Nov. 3 in three neighboring villages of Guma County, reported Father William Shom, a resident of the county. Many of the victims were children, Shom told CNA.
More worrisome to Nigerian experts is that herdsmen attacks are popping up in Nigeria’s southern states, where they were rare a few years ago.
On Nov. 21, a terrorist group heard speaking the language of the Fulani tribe attacked villages in the southern area of Enugu State, approximately 400 miles from the attack sites in Bokkos County, Plateau State. Enugu State is home to more than one million Roman Catholic residents.
Analysts have warned that the incessant attacks — if unresisted — could push Africa’s most populous nation into the hands of radical Islamists.
“True, Christian farmers have clashed with nomadic Fulani Muslim herders, or militants, for scores of years, but recent attacks by Fulani militants appear to be coordinated and strategic,” Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), told CNA.
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It’s “concerning that there are continued killings in Plateau State and just a few days later new attacks in the southern state of Enugu,” he added.
“Throughout the Middle Belt, security forces are either overwhelmed, unable to stop, or complicit in these attacks,” Abts said.
Solomon Maren, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, said Bokkos has seen a steady rise in armed attacks and annexations since 2018.
“Our people in the rural areas can no longer farm or move freely without the fear of attacks. Just last month, we buried more than 30 of our people who were attacked either on their farms or in their houses,” he said.
Gov. Simon Lalong ordered a crackdown on terrorists’ hideouts in Bokkos on Nov. 17. Military spokesman Major Ishaku Takwa told CNA that night that the effort was already underway.
However, three hours later, apparently, the same gang of 300 terrorists that attacked Maikatako assaulted a village approximately two miles west of Maikatako.
The volunteer guards in Maikatako armed with single-shot shotguns resisted the night attack as best they could, according to guardsmen who spoke to CNA.
“They took cover behind houses firing their guns but were forced to retreat by the terrorists’ superior weapons, AK-47 assault rifles,” said Bitrus Dang, a retired assistant superintendent of police. Dang and two other men were injured during the attack.
According to the military spokesman in Plateau State, Major Ishaku Takwa, villagers do not call for help early enough.
“Prompt information sharing is key to ending these attacks,” he said. “These terrorists come in and strike within minutes and go away so we need information as soon as it happens.”
A pastor in the town who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation told CNA that two army trucks carrying at least five men each were stationed on a bypass encircling Maikatako earlier in the evening when rumors of a planned attack started circulating. However, they stood by listening to music during the attack, the clergyman said.
“We were helpless,” Dang said.
“They came with AK-47 and AK-49 rifles as well as other sophisticated weapons,” he said. “We only had single-shot cartridge guns.” He said the attack continued for four hours without any intervention by police or soldiers.
While sifting through the rubble of their burned house on the morning of Nov. 16, Onah found a Bible, his only belonging that survived the terrorists’ fire.
“I lost everything including my baby, my car, my house, food and clothing, but with this [Bible], my hope is renewed,” he said.
“Nothing will stop me from being a Catholic. Nothing will stop me from following Christ,” he said.