(ADDS REPORTED ARRESTS, VICTIMS DETAILS, BOSNEWSLIFE STRINGER’S COUSIN KILLED)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Paul Jongas in Nigeria
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Dozens of students, including Christians, have been killed by Islamic militants in northeastern Nigeria, leading missionaries told BosNewsLife Wednesday, October 3.
Members of the militant Boko Haram group reportedly invaded the off campus dormitory of Federal Polytechnic College in the town of Mubi in remote Adamawa State.
“They just lined the students up and murdered them,” said Rae Burnett, Africa Director of the Christian Aid Mission (CAM) group, which supports Nigerian missionaries.
Other Christians claimed militants separated Muslim students from Christians by asking their name and religion, and “massacred” up to 46 people, most of them students, from late Monday till early Tuesday, October 2.
“Last night, just a few miles away from our headquarters, the militant Islamist Boko Haram group stormed” the dormitory, a native missionary leader explained, speaking on condition of anonymity amid security concerns.
STUDENTS ROUNDED UP
“They rounded up students in hostels and shot [or stabbed at least] 40 of them to death,” the missionary recalled, in a message sent to BosNewsLife by CAM. He said a boy, Thomas, who his group “converted” to Christianity, was among those killed.
The Christian cousin of BosNewsLife Special Correspondent and evangelist Paul Jongas was also among those killed. “My cousin Bitrus Yila was a student health and technology in Mubi,” he said.
Jongas made clear his death was a big loss for local Christians. “He was the secretary to the local youth council of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) [congregation] in his home state of Gombe.” Bitrus Yila translates in English as ‘Peter Survive'” as Christians believe he has eternal life with the Lord, added Jongas, who himself recently fled with his family to the capital Abuja after death threats.
Christian aid and advocacy group Open Doors cited its sources as saying that at least 25 to 30 students among those “massacred” were Christians, but CAM’s Burnett could not immediately confirm that figure to BosNewsLife.
Two security guards, an elderly resident and Muslims were also among the victims, according to police sources. Police also said “many arrests” were made, but cautioned it was to early to say who was responsible for the killings.
Some students and police sources linked the killers to an internal dispute over politics, the day after student elections, but a Christian student leader played down that assessment.
Daniel Babayi, the executive secretary of the Northern States Christian Association of Nigeria, said he believed the killings were a reprisal attack after 156 people were detained and accused of being members of Boko Haram in late September.
“Some were actually slaughtered with knives,” he told the Voice of America network. “And some were shot, so that is the reports that I have received from some of the students, some of whom are my relatives,” he stressed.
Nigerian missionaries said students from the Koma Hills, who they support, had survived. “It is so important for them to receive a good education, and we have tried hard to get the funds needed for their support,” the native missionary leader added.
The attack came on the evening of Nigeria’s Independence Day, on which President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly made clear that his nation had “refused to be broken by sectarian crises.”
At the same time, Boko Haram released a video on the Youtube website denying the group was engaged in peace talks with the government and reports that the group’s spokesperson had been killed by the military.
The native missionary, linked to CAM, suggested there was surprise among Christians that the attack happened despite a curfew in Adamawa State. “The soldiers had taken over that town a few days ago, but in spite of their presence, the terrorists struck in the dark of night. They also attacked homes and killed the families,” he noted.
The missionary said that the attack could not have come at a worse time as Christian workers also cope with severe flooding. “Our missions stations in Adamawa, Taraba and Niger States have been devastated by flooding. Our staff have been evacuated. It was an emergency situation, and there is no way now to go in to save any possessions.”
CAM said it had urged Christians to “Please pray for Nigeria and Adamawa State. Pray that we will have wisdom to minister Life in the midst of the terror.”
The latest attack is viewed by Christians as part of a bloody effort by Boko Haram, or ‘Western Education is a Sin’, to establish a state based on Islamic, or Sharia, law.
Boko Haram has been blamed for as many as 1,400 deaths in the past three years through attacks on churches, schools, security forces, the government, the media and communications networks.
The group also ordered Christians to leave northern Nigeria and urged Muslims to settle there.
Sectarian violence has claimed the lives of thousands of Nigerians in the past decade.
Nigeria’s president pledged to step up security, but the United States criticized authorities for not doing enough to end the bloodshed.
The U.S. State Department’s 2011 International Religious Freedom Report concluded that Nigeria’s “government did not effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible” for violence. “In Nigeria, attacks by elements of the violent extremist sect Boko Haram claimed the lives of both Christians and Muslims,” the report said.