By BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos with Paul Jongas reporting from Nigeria
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militants attacked a predominantly Christian area in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday, November 3, “slaughtering” villagers, just days after they killed Christians elsewhere in the region, residents and pastors said.
Local media quoted fleeing residents as saying suspected members of the Boko Haram group “slaughtered several people as they were heading to church” in Sabon Gari, on the border of Nigeria’s Borno and Adamawa states.
It was not immediately clear how many people had died, but at least dozens of Christians were feared dead in Borno and Adamawa states according to conservative estimates, following recent attacks attributed to Boko Haram.
In one of the bloodiest incidents last week, suspected Boko Haram fighters stormed the northeast Nigerian town of Mubi, killing Christians, BosNewsLife learned.
“Many Christians were killed,” confirmed two local pastors to a BosNewsLife reporter. “Churches were attacked and torched,” added the pastors who were not identified for security reasons.
Some 350 children were reportedly missing following ensuing clashes between Nigerian troops and Boko Haram, Nigerian media reported.
Beatice Elisha, a civil servant trapped in the town, said he heard gunfire north when the attack started earlier in the day. “They were burning houses and many people have died. There was gunfire all over the place,” he told media.
Last weekend suspected Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 17 people and abducted dozens in several attacks in the central region of neighboring Borno state, reporters said. At least 25 girls were reportedly kidnapped from a remote northeastern town a few days earlier.
In what appears to be escalating violence, Nigerian media said furious Nigerian forces and members of local vigilante groups killed and beheaded 41 Boko Haram members in the area. Boko Haram did not immediately confirm those reports.
Nigeria’s Foreign minister Aminu Wali had said the surge in violence would not jeopardise talks on peace with the militants, but Boko Haram later denied Nigeria’s announcement of a ceasefire agreement.
It also said hundreds of mainly Christian schoolgirls abducted in April have been converted to Islam and married off. The video message by a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau contradicted Nigerian government statements that they would soon be freed.
Nigeria’s military said it killed Shekau a year ago, though authorities cautioned in September that they had killed an imposter posing as him in videos.
“We have married them off and they are all in their husbands’ houses,” the man claiming to be Shekau said in the video.
“The over 200 Chibok girls have converted to Islam, which they confess is the best religion. Either their parents accept this and convert too or they can die.”
Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is sinful’ have killed thousands of people and abducted hundreds since launching an uprising against the government of Africa’s top oil producer in 2009. It wants to establish a strict Islamic state and warned Christians to leave areas under its control or convert to Islam.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan had pledged to improve protection of Christians, but many Nigerian troops have fled the troubled areas.
(Paul Jongas is both an evangelist and regular reporter for BosNewsLife in one of the most difficult areas for journalists. Would you consider helping him with his ministry? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.)