The militant group Boko Haram is believed to be behind a recent attack on a Nigerian village that left at least 81 people dead on Tuesday, June 9.
A survivor of the attack on the village of Faduma Kolomdi, located in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, according to local news outlets, said that militants requested that the village residents turn over their weapons, and offered to preach a sermon to them before the attack.
“They gathered us and said they wanted to deliver a religious sermon to us. They asked us to submit whatever arms we had. Some villagers gave up their dane guns, bow and arrows,” said the survivor, who was speaking to a government official about the attack.
“Suddenly, they started shooting at will. Even children and women were not spared, many were shot at close range,” said the survivor.
In addition to those killed, an additional 13 were injured and seven more, including the leader of the village, were abducted, along with several hundred cattle. The attack lasted approximately six hours, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The attackers fled after the Nigerian Air Force fired shots at them from a fighter jet.
The governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, called for the country’s military to step up its efforts against extremists groups. Zulum visited Faduma Kolomdi on Wednesday and met with survivors of the attack.
Zulum cited the repeated attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram and its splinter organizations and demanded the military take more aggressive action.
“Last year, about the same number of people were killed in Gajiram like it happened again” said Zulum.
“This is barbaric. It is very unfortunate. The only solution to end this massacre is by dislodging the insurgents in the shores of Lake Chad. Doing so will require collaborative regional efforts,” he added.
A spokesman for the Nigerian military said in a statement on Wednesday that the attack was committed by Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), and that action would be taken to “track and apprehend or neutralize the perpetrators.”
“We further wish to reiterate that the Nigerian Army is committed to investigate the circumstances of these callous attacks by desperate Boko Haram criminals and the bandits on innocent civilians,” said the statement from Col. Sagir Musa, the acting director of public relations for the Nigerian Army.
“We would ensure that appropriate action is taken to mitigate against any future incidents. While thanking Nigerians for their understanding, we implore all to continue to support and cooperate with the troops as they carry out their duties,” he said.
The attack is the latest in an ongoing series of killings and kidnappings in Nigeria, often carried out by Islamist group against the country’s Christian population. Last week a Christian pastor and his pregnant wife were killed on their farm in northeastern region of the country.
More than 600 Christians have been killed so far in 2020, according to a report on May 15 by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety). Christians have been beheaded and set on fire, farms set ablaze, and priests and seminarians have been targeted for kidnapping and ransom.
In January, militants kidnapped four Catholic seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna and eventually killed one of them, Michael Nnadi. On March 1, Nigerian priest Fr. David Echioda was kidnapped by gunmen after offering Sunday Mass, but was released days afterward.
Speaking to CNA in February, Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said he was concerned the situation in Nigeria will spread to nearby countries if nothing is done to crack down on religious persecution.
“There's a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria, and we're afraid it is going to spread a great deal in that region,” he told CNA. “It is one that's really popped up on my radar screens -- in the last couple of years, but particularly this past year.”
“I think we’ve got to prod the [Nigerian President Muhammadu] Buhari government more. They can do more,” he said. “They’re not bringing these people to justice that are killing religious adherents. They don’t seem to have the sense of urgency to act.”