Killer Fulani herdsmen armed with guns killed 16 people on Tuesday in an attack on a church congregation in Benue State in an attack the Nigerian police authority fell short of describing as terrorist.
Hundreds of people have died in similar attacks in central Nigeria in an outbreak of nomadic terrorism that has put pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari less than a year before an election he wants to contest.
The terrorist activities of this group also referred to as Fulani herdsmen are believed to have assumed a genocidal proportion; raising questions about the government’s ability to maintain security in the country.
Moses Yamu, a police spokesman in Benue state, said the attack took place around 6 a.m. (1 a.m. ET) in the village of Ayar Mbalom, in Gwer East local government authority.
“Sixteen persons were confirmed killed, including two priests,” said Yamu.
Some 73 people were killed in central states – known as the “Middle Belt” – in the first few days of 2018, prompting a high-profile mass burial in Benue state’s capital, Makurdi.
Critics of Buhari, a Muslim who is Fulani, have accused him of failing to crack down on these killer Fulani herdsmen (already identified as Fulani Ethnic Militia and classed by Global Terrorism Index as the 4th deadliest terrorist group in the World) because they are from the same ethnic group and religion – an accusation his administration has repeatedly denied.
The latest killings were described as “heinous” by Buhari, a 75-year-old former military ruler who vowed to improve security when he took office in May 2015.
“Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he said in a statement.
Buhari declared earlier this month he would seek a second term. His candidacy depends on party approval, which is widely seen as a formality.
The Middle Belt region includes a number of swing states that could play a significant role in determining Buhari’s electoral prospects. (Reuters/AtlanticPost)