By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigerian authorities are investigating the killings of Christian family members by Muslim fighters and the kidnapping of Nigeria’s second-highest ranking Anglican leader, Archbishop Ignatius Kattey.
The latest wave of anti-Christian attacks began Sunday, September 1, when suspected Muslim ethnic Fulani herdsmen shot five members of a Christian family to death, including a 7-year-old boy, and killed another Christian in Kungte village, in Plateau State, local Christians said.
Killed along with Peter Dung, 50, were his wife, Rose, 47; his son, Sati, 25; his daughter, Taiye, 17; and his 7-year-old son, Samson, residents said. Another son, 20-year-old David, was not in the house at the time and was the sole survivor. His family were members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), news reports said.
Another Christian, Dung Dauda, 42, was shot and killed while he was returning to the village during the violence, according to relatives.
Plateau State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Yiljap Abraham, called the violence “inhuman and utter display of insensitivity to the sanctity of lives.”
He said seven of the attackers were detained, but that the investigation was continuing.
The violence came shortly after 10 people were killed in similar circumstances in the Foron district, raising fears of a resurgence of sectarian killings in Plateau after a tense calm, local media reported.
While cattle theft was believed to be among the reasons behind the latest attacks, anti-Christian violence has been encouraged by the militant group Boko Haram, or ‘Western Education is a Sin’, which fights for an independent Islamic state.
Elsewhere in the country, police was still searching for Archbishop Ignatius Kattey, who was abducted Friday, September 6, on his way to Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, officials said.
Local media quoted a source close to the Archbishop’s family as saying that the kidnappers established contact and demanded ten million naira ($61,500) ransom.
Kidnapping for ransom occurs regularly in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta region, though authorities rarely admit to making payments, observers said. While victims in Niger Delta are often released unharmed after the payment, in the north Islamist extremists have reportedly killed several of their hostages.
Under pressure to bring back stability in Africa’s largest oil producing nation, Nigeria’s Christian president on Wednesday, September 11, fired nine ministers in what was the biggest Cabinet shake-up in his over two-year presidency.
President Goodluck Jonathan made the changes to “refocus his government, to inject in fresh blood to achieve greater service delivery to the people of Nigeria,” Information Minister Labaran Maku said.
Maku said the ministers of foreign affairs, environment, education and state defense were among those fired. Critics have linked the dismissals to upcoming elections in 2015, saying Jonathan may want to prevent a Muslim of taking the country’s top job.
Additionally there have been tensions within the People’s Democratic Party. Nearly two weeks ago former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and seven governors formed a coalition within the party, calling themselves the new PDP.
Christians make up about 40 percent of Nigeria’s nearly 175 million people, with Muslims and people with indigenous beliefs making up the rest, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other estimates.