(ADDS MORE DETAILS ABOUT KILLING OF PASTOR)
By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Suspected Islamic militants have killed a Christian leader in north-eastern Nigeria shortly after the president declared a state of emergency in the region to tackle "insurgents and terrorists" threatening Africa's most populous nation.
The Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Borno State, Faye Pama Musa, a Pentecostal pastor, was shot dead in his Maiduguri home by two suspected members of the Islamic 'Boko Haram' group, officials confirmed Wednesday, May 15.
"The Borno CAN secretary has been killed. We've got the report and the national president received it with heavy heart. It is very sad," said Kenny Asaka, a CAN spokesman.
A police source reportedly said that the deceased official of the Christian umbrella group "attempted to run away but his assailants were closed on him" shooting him "at close range" late Tuesday, May 14.
The pastor was reportedly executed in front of his daughter, who followed the assailants outside, begging for her father's life. He is survived by his wife and three children who are unsure what to do next fearing further attacks, Christians said.
The 47-year-old pastor was killed shortly after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States to address the “systematic effort by insurgents and terrorists to destabilize the Nigerian state and test our collective resolve."
Speaking live on radio and television Tuesday, May 14, Jonathan said the north-eastern states would receive more troops, though he did not remove state politicians from their posts. Under Nigerian law, the president has the power to fire politicians and install a caretaker government in emergency circumstances.
The move followed escalating attacks against Christians and other targets in northern and central states over recent weeks by what rights groups say are increasingly well-armed and well-organized militants.
Borno State governor Kassim Shettima reportedly told senators and the military last week that Boko Haram was on the verge of seizing control of the state.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said it has been "increasingly concerned by a clear surge in violence over recent weeks in northern and central Nigeria."
In one of the most bloodiest recent attacks, some 40 people were reportedly killed and several properties destroyed Sunday, May 12, in Okpachanyi village in Nigeria's central Benue State when suspected Fulani tribesmen attacked the funeral of two police officers who were murdered earlier in Nasarawa State, also in Central Nigeria.
This follows a similar attack on the Agatu Local Government Area where the village is located on May 8 when Fulani herdsmen reportedly destroyed property and killed several people, including women and children.
CSW Nigeria also told BosNewsLife that an attack was carried out on Zankang Village in Kaura Local Government Area in the southern part of Kaduna State by Fulani gunmen Monday, May 13. "The number of casualties is yet to be determined and reports that some of the gunmen were arrested [the next day] have yet to be confirmed. This was the second successive attack on the village by Fulani tribesmen."
The group quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the gunmen had also attacked the village during the early hours of Sunday, May 12, firing sporadically, but fled when members of the security forces arrived at the scene after hearing the gunshots.
"Ten people were injured, two of whom are receiving hospital treatment," CSW said, adding that "42 people are now known to have died during similar attacks in March on five villages in the area that displaced approximately 4,000 people."
A police barracks on the outskirts of Bama Town in Borno State was also attacked by suspected members of Boko Haram in the early hours of Sunday May 12. "The insurgents arrived on motorcycles and in three-wheel vehicles, shouting “Allahu Akbar”, or "Allah is Great", before attacking the compound with explosives and petrol bombs," CSW explained.
They were reportedly dispersed by the army without loss of life. The attack comes a week after coordinated attacks on Bama Town by some 200 militants claimed 47 lives, rights activists said.
BOKO HARAM ROLE
Islamic extremism has been fueled by Boko Haram as part of its efforts to establish a strict Islamic state. Boko Haram, or 'Western Education is Sinful' has been linked to ongoing attacks against churches and Christian populations in northern Nigeria, which some estimate have killed at least 1,750 people, including Christians and Muslims, since 2010.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston told BosNewsLife that "organized violence has been occurring almost on a daily basis, claiming innocent victims of all creeds, and the escalation in attacks by increasingly well armed militants has heightened insecurity even further."
He said CSW offered "condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the violence in Northern and Central Nigeria" in recent days.
"Nigeria is currently facing an unprecedented threat to national unity. It is vital that the international community fully supports Nigeria as the nation contends with the security challenges engendered by international terrorism and a multifaceted, evolving insurgency," Johnston said.
"The outcome of this struggle has important implications not only for Nigeria, but also for West Africa and the continent as a whole," he added.
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos)
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
Help BosNewsLife to be the voice of the voiceless. Click here for a subscription.