Some 27 Christians, including a pastor, have drowned after fleeing Islamist attackers in northeast Nigeria.
According to Christian persecution watchdog, World Watch Monitor, the attacks took place between 13 to 16 September, and involved communities based along the Benue river. A local pastor explained how, upon hearing gunfire, many of the villagers fled into the bush, or drowned as they attempted to swim across the river.
“Nobody knows the whereabouts of these people missing. Since their dead bodies are not found, it is too early to declare them dead. We will give them the benefit of doubt; maybe some of them may return home to their families,” the pastor noted.
Rev. Gerison Ezekiel Kill, leader of the Boiki Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, was one of those who drowned. More than 45 others were reported to have been injured in the attack.
Survivors have recalled the moment the Islamist gunmen stormed their village and opened fire indiscriminately.
“My husband and I went to Numan to my pick up our children around 2pm,” said Rahab Solomon, a survivor from Bolki village. “At about 3pm, while we were on our way back home, we heard that our village was under attack and that three persons were killed.”
She added: “We couldn’t go back home because we were told that our house was burnt.”
Solomon noted that many who tried to run “were shot and many who tried to escape through the river, but could not swim, died as well.”
“Those who could swim were able to survive,” she said, adding, “we no longer have a place to call home. Right now we are helpless.”
Jidauna Igiya, the head of Gon village, explained how many tried calling the security services once the attacks began, but that these attempts were fruitless. “We tried to call security forces but none came to our rescue,” he said. “We managed to put our families, children, women and old people through the bush and that is how we were able to be saved. Right now we are all scattered. Some of us are still in the bush, taking shelter around Gon north, while some of our families are in Numan and others in other villages.”
The attacks have become increasingly common in this region, with the Fulani militants attempting to eradicate Christianity from the land. The state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Stephen Mamza, said that believers were continuing to be “killed by these so-called herdsmen on a daily basis, ” noting that the security forces continue to leave the Christian community vulnerable to attack. (source)