ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has urged an end to communal violence after Muslim Fulani herdsmen in central Nigeria’s Plateau state killed 20 Christians, including children, in an apparent reprisal attack, while elsewhere a priest was shot outside his church.
Local police said attacked Ancha village, in the Bassa local government area of Plateau state, after the killing of a boy from the herding community.
The violence began when Christians slept in the hours after midnight on Friday, September 8, according to Christians familiar with the situation. “I urge all our communities in the state and the other parts of the country to embrace peace and bring to a stop these painful and unnecessary killings,” said President Buhari, in a statement.
He explained that communities and security agencies in Plateau had taken steps to “pull the state back from the brink of anarchy and senseless killings”, adding that it would be “a painful loss to allow these unsavory acts to return”.
At least 19 of the Christians killed were members of a Baptist church, while one was a member of a Methodist church, Christians said. Five Christians survived after suffering various injuries. Christians rights activists said at least one entire Christian family was killed in the attack.
“My heart is terribly heavy,” said Reverend Nanchwat Laven, the pastor of Salama Baptist Church. “I haven’t been able to sleep. I was called [on the phone] at about 12:00 midnight when the Fulani militia came into the village,” he added in remarks distributed by rights group International Christian Concern.
Elsewhere Friday, September 8, news emerged that a Nigerian priest was shot outside of his church by gunmen pretending to be worshipers.
Nigerian media said the priest, Daniel Nwankwo, was shot after an early-morning mass held at Thomas Catholic Church in the town of Ikeja in Nigeria’s southwestern Lagos state.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but witnesses said the assailants were of ethnic “Igbo background.”
The latest violence means another security challenge for Buhari.
He also faces an eight-year insurgency by militant group Boko Haram in the northeast and attempts to observe a ceasefire in the southern Niger Delta energy hub where militant attacks on oil facilities last year cut crude production by more than a third.
These latest attacks came at a time when Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to the advocacy group Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List.