By BosNewsLife Africa Service with additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in several parts of Nigeria are mourning or searching for loved ones after new kidnappings, and raids on villages by Islamic militants killed at least some 170 people, including Christian Nigerians.
In one of the latest attacks, the Boko Haram group raided a boarding school for girls in northeastern Nigeria Monday, February 26, echoing the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian schoolgirls in the town of Chibok.
The Government Girls Science and Technical Schools in Dapchi village came under attack when 12 trucks carrying insurgents and mounted machine guns drove onto the school campus, witnesses said.
As the militants approached and set off explosives, dozens of students and teachers reportedly fled into the surrounding bush, helping one another scale the compound fence. Two bodies were later found, and at least 110 remain unaccounted for Nigerian officials said.
Nigerian authorities earlier claimed that no girls had been taken away and that at least 76 were rescued.
Parents said it resembled the Chibok kidnappings when 276 girls were forced onto trucks at their boarding school and driven into the forest.
Then-President Goodluck Jonathan came under pressure for waiting two weeks before addressing the attack and refused international help.
About 60 girls escaped soon after the incident, while militants were later releasing 82 others in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. But some 100 girls and young women remain in captivity.
The Islamist group has released a video allegedly showing show Chibok girls in captivity. Their faces were covered, and they said on camera that they did not want to return home.
Besides kidnappings, locals reported the killings of at least eight Christians targeted for their faith and the destruction of dozens of homes in other parts of Nigeria. Rights group Amnesty International said at least 168 deaths connected with Fulani raids in January alone.
In recent weeks, Fulani herdsmen, backed by Islamist militants, raided the village of Zanwra outside the city of Jos in Plateau state, Christian aid groups said.
Many of those who survived lost everything they owned.
Though the violence in the area has mostly subsided, Christians continue to fear for their safety. In published remarks, Pastor Sunday Gado Biri from the Evangelical Church Winning All in Zanwra said church attendance of around 400 is now about half that number at best as “some have fled and others fear to gather together”.
The pastor says the government should do more to end the crackdown by Islamists on Christians. He complained that the intervention by the military has been inadequate, as Islamic attacks continue throughout central Nigeria.
While the government claimed the group was “technically defeated” in late 2015 after retaking much of the territory it once controlled, Boko Haram attacks continue as part of attempts to establish areas ruled by Islamic law.
Christians have been forced to leave several regions of Nigeria or were ordered to embrace Islam.