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Death toll continues to rise in Nigeria following Christmas attacks against Christian villages

by Kelly Valencia

The death toll in the Nigeria Christmas massacre has now risen to almost 200. According to Release International, more bodies are still being discovered as attacks against Christian villages continued this week.

The charity, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, received information of another attack by Fulani militia on 28th December and believes there are further rounds of violence planned.

Armed bandits ran amok in some 80 communities across central Nigeria, with most attacks taking place on 23rd and 24th of December. According to press reports, the Christmas attacks drove some 20,000 Nigerians from their homes.

Partners of Release International say this latest onslaught is the worst massacre in Nigeria since 2018, when Fulani militia slaughtered 235 in coordinated attacks in broadly the same area.

Nigerian partners of Release International are calling on the authorities to intensify their efforts to protect communities in the north and Middle Belt in the days ahead. They have warned: “Intelligence shows that the assailants are bent on continuing their havoc”.

For the charity, there are two main reasons underlying the spark in violence. The Fulani cattle herders are losing grazing land due to desertification and are attacking others to seize their land. There is also a religious element. There is a long history of attacks by Islamists to cleanse the north of its Christian minority, dating back to the Fulani jihads of the 18th and 19th centuries.

“We are seeing history repeat itself in modern day Nigeria,” Release International CEO Paul Robinson said.

He continued: “Many observers now regard the radicalised Fulani militia as a greater menace than the terror groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province. Both organisations have sworn to turn Nigeria into an Islamic nation. And the Fulani militia, in ethnically cleansing Christians from the north and Middle Belt are serving the same agenda.

“Release International calls for prayer for these Christian communities and urges the government of Nigeria and its security forces to take urgent measures to safeguard these communities from attacks. The ineffectiveness of Nigeria’s security forces in protecting the country’s Christian minority is being noted around the world.”

According to Open Doors, more Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in the rest of the world combined - 14 every day, on average.

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