A Catholic priest was kidnapped and found murdered in Nigeria, local sources have confirmed.
According to local news source Vanguard, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was kidnapped from his car by gunmen on Sept. 1 in the village of Orlu in the state of Imo in southern Nigeria. Police report that earlier that day, another priest - Fr. Jude Udokwu - was also attacked by kidnappers in the same village, but managed to escape. Within 24 hours, the body of Fr. Onunkwo was found in the bush close to a nearby village, according to police.
Priests of the local Orlu Catholic Diocese were called to scene immediately to help identify the body. Fr. Onunkwo’s body reportedly did not show any outward wounds, and so local authorities suspect that he may have been strangled to death. No arrests have been made in connection with the death thus far, though local police have said the investigation is ongoing.
The news comes just a few weeks after Vanguard reported that three men were arrested in connection with the death of Fr. Raphael Pankyes, who was found murdered in Plateau State in the center of the country in July. Jesuit priest Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe also recently shared his story of being kidnapped by armed Fulani herdsmen in April.
The Fulani herdsmen are a notoriously violent group whose clashes with farmers have killed thousands of people in Nigeria over the past two decades. They are considered one of the most violent groups in the world, according to the Global Terrorism Index. Violence against Christians in general has significantly increased in the country in recent years, with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram threatening safety in the north, and smaller violent gangs threatening security in the south.
In 2016, one Nigerian bishop lamented that Christians had essentially become “target practice.”