By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Paul Jongas in Nigeria and Stefan J. Bos
NAIROBI, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in northeastern Nigeria are mourning an evangelical pastor and at least some 150 other people killed by militants who want to establish an Islamic state.
The latest attacks began Monday, July 14, when fighters of the Islamic group ‘Boko Haram’, or ‘Western education is a sin’, attacked Dille village in Borno state, killing Pastor Taiwo Dokun pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and some 44 other villagers, Christians said.
Witnesses said he was shot dead when he tried to escape. The whereabouts of the late pastor’s wife and their three children remained unknown Sunday, July 21.
“The family could have been abducted by the insurgents who took away many of the residents of the town. The pastor’s family members have not been found since the attack and have not called any one,” a church member told reporters, without revealing his name.
The pastor’s residence was reportedly completely razed by the insurgents. Other homes and shops were also torched, forcing villagers to flee the area into nearby hills, residents said.
Soon after violence spread to other areas in northeastern Nigeria. Since Friday, July 18, at least more than 100 people were killed, and militants were seen hoisting their black and white flag over the north-eastern town of Damboa.
Hundreds of people in another north-eastern area, Askira Uba, are fleeing after receiving letters from the Boko Haram threatening to attack and take over their villages, Abbas Gava, a spokesman for the Nigerian Vigilante Group said.
“Nine major villages are on the run,” he told repoters.
Survivors said on Saturday that the insurgents had attacked the town of Damboa before dawn on Friday, July 18. firing rocket-propelled grenades, throwing homemade bombs into homes and gunning down people as they tried to escape the ensuing fires. Most of the town had burned down. Many Christians were believed to be among the dead.
The town had reportedly been under siege for two weeks, since Boko Haram dislodged soldiers from a new tank battalion camp on its outskirts.
Boko Haram earlier warned Christians to leave northern Nigeria, as it seeks to establish a strict Islamic state in this nation of 170 million people.
Nigeria’s Defence Ministry said it repelled an attack and killed at least 50 insurgents for the loss of six soldiers, including the commanding officer, but locals said many soldiers had died. The military was reportedly driven from the base after militants twice ambushed military convoys.
It came amid concern over the whereabouts of more than 200 Christian schoolgirls, who have been held in captivity for three months.
Boko Haram has also detonated bombs as far away as Lagos, the commercial capital in the south-west, as part of its increasingly violent Islamic campaign.
More than 2,000 civilians were killed in some 95 attacks during the first half of 2014, according to investigators of the Human Rights Watch advocacy group. That compares with an estimated 3,600 people killed in the first four years of the insurgency, adding to pressure on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to improve security, including for Christians living in heavily Muslim areas.