By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militants have killed at least 13 Christians this week in northern Nigeria as part of efforts to cleanse the region of Christian believers, a rights group confirmed Thursday, January 12.
In one of the latest known incidents, fighters of the group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, shot dead four Igbo Christian men Wednesday, January 11, in Potiskum town in Yobe State, explained Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
They were shot while driving in a vehicle southwards to rejoin their families, who had already moved to that area to escape the violence, added CSW, which is investigating the violence.
Previous attempts to reunite with them had been hampered by an indefinite general strike against fuel subsidy removal, which has brought the nation to a halt, according to CSW investigators.
Following the attack, Boko Haram reportedly tried to attack the nearby Kukargadu and Dagare villages, both of which have large populations of indigenous Christians. “However, extra security personnel were deployed to the villages, which were consequently kept safe through the night,” CSW said in a statement.
NINE CHRISTIANS KILLED
Earlier on Tuesday, January 10, eight men and a woman were reportedly killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in Potiskum. All nine are thought to have been Christians.
The group, which included a lecturer at the ‘Federal College of Education/Technical’ in Potiskum, four policemen and a young man employed by the local Jam’a Clinic, were shot and killed in a bar in the Dorawa Ward area, Christians said. The gunmen reportedly escaped on motorcycles.
The previous day, two Christians were also shot at by gunmen on a motorcycle in the Barracks area of Potiskum, but they reportedly escaped unhurt by falling to the ground and playing dead.
A 24-hour curfew was imposed in Yobe Thursday, January 13, and motorcycles have been banned due to Boko Haram’s regular usage of these vehicles, Christians said.
Boko Haram did not immediately confirm the latest attacks, but it has warned Christians to leave northern Nigeria or face deadly violence. It also urged Muslims in the south to move to northern areas.
YOBO STATE EMPTIED?
The deteriorating security situation has led to concerns that Yobe State could soon be entirely emptied of its Christian population. CSW said it has learned that “entire lorry-loads of people have been departing the state.”
It quoted one unidentified source as saying that CSW-Nigeria was assisting over two hundred families of indigenous Christians with relocation. “If this continues unabated, in the next few months or weeks there may be no Christians in Yobe State. Though our houses, jobs and churches are here, we have no choice but to leave,” the Christian was quoted as saying.
CSW said it was concerned that fuel subsidy removal protests are being used for “alternative” agendas.
MOB ATTACKS CHURCH
“On Tuesday, a fuel protest in Gusau, Zamfara State, degenerated into an attack on Ebenezer Baptist Church as rioters removed equipment and other valuables from the premises and set them on fire.”
Authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew was in Kaduna City and its environs Wednesday, January 11, after Muslim youths reportedly went to the governor’s official residence, claiming they wanted to seize control. A curfew was also imposed in Niger State after rioting broke out in the capital, Minna, and the governor’s campaign headquarters was attacked, reports said.
Elsewhere retaliatory attacks on Hausa-Fulani neighborhoods in Benin City in southern Nigeria on January 9 and January 10 during fuel protests resulted in five deaths, mass displacement and the destruction of an Islamic School attached to the central mosque, CSW acknowledged.
“This worrying development follows a week of violent events in Adamawa State that left at least 37 people dead in which southerners were specifically targeted.”
CIVIL WAR CONCERNS
Christian leaders have expressed concerns that Boko Haram may want to spark a civil war between Muslims and Christians.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that the “fact that an entire local Christian population is being forced to flee from their homes and the deliberate targeting of the Igbo population…are appalling manifestations of religious and ethnic cleansing” by militants.
“We call on the state and federal officials and security agents to do everything in their power to end Boko Haram’s reign of terror and bring an end to the ongoing violence, which constitutes an immediate threat to the unity of this multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation.”
Last weekend, Christians in Nigeria were already mourning dozens of believers killed since January 5, amid warnings from the head of Nigerian Christians that the violence is reminiscent of the outbreak of the 1960s civil war.
“We are reminded by the occurrences of these killings of the genesis of the civil war that took place here in Nigeria,” said Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
That conflict claimed more than a million lives in the late 1960s. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).