By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Thousands of people, most of them Christians, remain displaced in Nigeria’s farming belt where hundreds of people have been killed by Fulani cattle herders backed by Islamic terror groups, BosNewsLife learned.
Since February 21 as many as 500 people were murdered in the mainly Christian area of Agatu in Nigeria’s central Benue state, according to local Christians and rights officials.
Investigators linked to Christian charity Open Doors said about 20,000 people are thought to have fled the attacks which locals called “the worst massacre” by mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen since 2010 – when 400-500 died near the city of Jos.
Open Doors, a global charity supporting Christians and churches under pressure for their faith, ranks Nigeria as the most violent country on Earth for Christians.
“Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist insurgency that has pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, is responsible for the great majority of anti-Christian violence,” Open Doors told BosNewsLife in an assessment.
“But its attacks also inspire others, thus creating a ripple effect leading to further fanatical movements and violent, more spontaneous mobs,” including 5he herdsmen, the group said. “Hausa-Fulani herdsmen and settlers have been conducting massive operations over the years as a result of which thousands of Christians have been evicted or killed.”
A survivor, Ada Ojechi, told media that federal military and Benue state police created a false sense of security. Ojechi said many people who fled previous violence had returned. “Our people were caught napping because we relaxed when we heard what we considered the cheering news that the federal government had intervened,” Ojechi was quoted as saying.
“Unfortunately, the Fulanis knew we had relaxed and took advantage of us to unleash a terrible massacre on us. As we speak, corpses litter everywhere in the village. I have been trying to reach many of my family members without success. We feel terribly let down by the government that announced a joint security team. We have not seen the security men- be they policemen or military, as I speak,” the survivor added.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation. “The only way to bring an end to the violence once and for all is to look beyond one incident and ascertain exactly what factors are behind the conflicts. There should not be any reason why Nigerians of any group or tongue cannot now reside with one another wherever they find themselves after decades of living together,” he reportedly said.
But with thousands of Christians afraid to return home, no return to normalcy was expected soon.
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