A 3-year-old girl and nine others died in north-western Nigeria’s Kaduna State in an early morning attack on a Christian village carried out by armed Muslim herdsmen of Fulani origin, according to a report.
The girl, identified as Elizabeth Samaila, suffered multiple machete lacerations to the head. She died in a hospital Thursday, the day after the attack on the Tudun Agwalla community in Kajuru Local Government Area, the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.
Also on Thursday, families of nine others who were hacked to death with machetes buried them in a mass grave. Six of the nine were identified as Richard Yusuf, Kefas Yusuf, Fidelis Wada, Kachia, Genesis Soja, and Rahab Soja.
Eight-year-old Rita Friday, who was also injured on the head, was among an unknown number of Christian villagers who were wounded in the attack, CSW said, adding that seven people remained unaccounted for.
“What is particularly unacceptable is that her death is the latest to occur in a series of attacks which continue unabated,” CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said. “Southern Kaduna is steadily being transformed into killing fields, either due to a gross failure of governance, or official indifference and acquiescence.”
Fulani herders routinely brutally attack predominantly Christian farming communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. While some believe the nomadic herders launch attacks as they look for grazing pastures, the radicals target Christian villages in a similar manner as the Boko Haram terror group that terrorizes the northern regions of the country.
In a special report, titled “Nigeria: A Killing Field of Defenseless Christians,” released earlier this year, the Anambra-based nongovernmental organization International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) estimated that about 11,500 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since 2015 by Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, and highway bandits.
A recent estimate by Intersociety suggests that over 620 Christians have been killed in Nigeria so far in 2020.
“International pressure must now be brought to bear on both the state and federal authorities to ensure protection for these vulnerable communities, and that effective action is taken to disarm all armed non-state actors and bring the perpetrators of these horrific atrocities to justice,” Thomas said.
Last year, two members from the Adara community, a majority Christian ethnic group in Southern Kaduna state, were among other Nigerians who shared their experiences during a panel event sponsored by the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation.
“Right now my tribe is nonexistent legally,” Alheri Magaji, the daughter of the leader of the Adara Chiefdom, said. “Part of the reason why I am here is to try to get my land back. That is who I am. That is my identity. That is what makes me. My people are stranded. They are literally sleeping under the skies on the floor [with] no houses, no food, nothing. It is not about relief materials and how much we can donate. It’s about holding the government accountable.”
“I spoke to a woman whose limbs were cut off. She had four kids and was nine months pregnant,” Magaji recalled. “Fulani herdsmen came to a Kajuru town in February, about 400 of them with AK-47s. They came at around 6:30 a.m. They spoke Adara. They came in with war songs. They were singing songs that translate into ‘the owners of the land have come. It’s time for settlers to leave.’
“We have 2-month-old babies, 6-month-old babies, babies in the bellies turned from their mother’s womb and slaughtered like animals, like chickens,” she said. “We are here today to beg the U.S. government and for the world to hear our story.”
Nigeria was added to the U.S. State Department’s “special watch list” of countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom and is ranked as the 12th-worst country in the world for Christian persecution by Open Doors USA.