By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigeria’s military said Saturday, September 7, it has killed 50 fighters of militant group Boko Haram which has been blamed for fueling Islamic violence against Christians.
The crackdown on Boko Haram in the country’s northeast came after armed Muslims killed at least scores of Christians, including a family, in recent weeks, church officials and rights activists said.
In one of the latest known anti-Christian attacks armed Muslims killed seven family members and two other Christians in the northern village of Adu, forcing hundreds to flee their homes, local villagers said. Three other Christians were injured in the September 1 attack carried out by suspected Muslim Fulani gunmen.
The murdered Christians, members of the local St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, were identified as Anthony Nkom, 60, his wife Asabe Anthony and their children, 35-year-old James Anthony and his brother Andrew Anthony, 37. Also killed were three nephews – 5-year-old Meshack Aaron, 12-year-old Bulus James Anthony, and 15-year-old Happiness Anthony, Christians said.
Two other Christians, Joseph Abwoi, 50, and his wife, Asabat Abwoi, 40, were also reportedly shot dead in the raids on Christian homes. Christians identified the three people wounded in the attack on Anthony’s home as grandchildren of the murdered Nkom – Godiya Andrew, 9, Shenyan Andrew, 3 and Kawot, 5.
WESTERN EDUCATION ‘SIN’
While it was unclear whether the armed Muslims had direct links to Boko Haram, which means ‘Western Education is a Sin’, the group has called for an Islamic state and ordered Christians to leave the north, including Kaduna state where the Sunday morning raid reportedly happened.
The attack came shortly after Islamic fighters shot dead five Christians in a roadside ambush near Nigeria’s central city of Jos on August 29, church representatives said.
Aid workers told BosNewsLife that Christians in Northern and Middle Belt states continue to be “extremely vulnerable” to violent attack.
“Thousands of believers were forced to flee their villages in the central state of Plateau after violence broke out on 27 June. Ten days of raids by suspected Islamist gunmen left more than 30 Christians dead in the villages of Magama, Bolgong and Karkashi, and other villages were also targeted, Christian aid group Barnabas Fund said.
It cited Christians as saying that the real total death toll in those attacks may be as high as 70.
MORE ATTACKS REPORTED
“Separately in the Northern state of Kano, at least 45 people lost their lives in coordinated bomb attacks on two churches in Sabon Gari, a predominantly Christian area. Four bombs exploded within minutes of each other as Bible studies were being held on the evening of July 29,” Barnabas Fund added.
The group expressed concern that over 100 Christian homes were reportedly torched and 6,000 people displaced by the violence since June. Christians have taken refuge in camps and in nearby towns.
There has been pressure on Nigeria’s government to improve protection of Christians and tackle Boko Haram and affiliated Islamists. On Saturday, September 7, the army said its troops “pursued the terrorists to their camps with air support and about 50 insurgents were killed in a shootout,” in the troubled Borno state.
Borno state is viewed as Boko Haram’s historic stronghold and the military has battled fighters for the past four years, observers said. Most of the region has been placed under a state of emergency since May, when government forces launched a massive offensive aimed at crushing the group, though attacks have continued.
Besides Christians, other Nigerians also suffer. On Thursday, September 5, suspected Boko Haram members disguised as traders invaded an open market and opened fire, killing at least 15 people in the village of Gajiram, in the Borno state, witnesses and security officials said.
Christians, who comprise roughly 40 percent of Nigeria’s nearly 175 million people, say they are outgunned by Islamic fighters. (With 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).
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