NIGERIA- During Holy Week in Benue state, north-central Nigeria, at least 94 people reportedly died in a series of deadly attacks on Christian communities, an ominous sign of escalating violence blamed on Muslim militias in, Middle Belt region.
It was reported that armed men killed a young boy and kidnapped the pastor during a Palm Sunday service at the Akenawe-Tswarev Pentecostal church in Logo County, Benue state, on April 2.
A week later, on April 5, more than 50 people were killed in the village of Umogidi, in Utokpo county, one of Benue’s Catholic strongholds, the Associate Press reported.
In the village of Ngban, about 100 displaced Christian farmers and their families were being housed inside an elementary school building when Muslims raided it on Good Friday night, killing dozens.
According to Father Remigius Ihyula, the head of the Benue branch of the Justice, Development, and Peace Commission (JDPC), a Nigerian Catholic relief organization, 43 people were killed and more than 40 injured in the attack on April 7.
In Otukpo, Benue’s outgoing governor, Samuel Ortom, warned residents to remain vigilant hours before the attack, criticizing the slow response of police and army units to his requests for help.
A four-year campaign by Ortom to change federal laws so that citizens can buy firearms for self-defense was unsuccessful.
An anonymous relief worker from the JDPC told CNA she arrived the next morning to care for survivors and spoke with police officers at the nearby checkpoint.
“Some of the survivors told me that police had fought the attackers and possibly killed some of them, but the marauding band retrieved their dead on their way out of the school compound, and the police told me the same,” she said.
“I doubt that the survivors of the attack on the primary school could go to church on Easter Sunday, as they need medicine and trauma counseling,” Father Ihyula told CNA.
In an interview with survivors of the April 7 attack in Ngban, Ortom said at least 134 people had been killed over five days in Benue attacks. The tally includes a raid on April 3 in Apa that resulted in 47 deaths, according to ThisDaylive.com, a Nigerian news website. On Monday, it was unclear whether Christians were the targets.
It is estimated that there are 2 million displaced persons in Benue State who cannot live on their traditional farmlands for fear of being killed. During the day, some farmers return to their fields, and at night they retreat to refugee camps.