KANO, NIGERIA – In a series of devastating attacks that spanned from the night of December 23 through Christmas Day, terrorists in Nigeria unleashed a wave of violence primarily targeting Christian communities in Plateau state. The coordinated assaults resulted in the deaths of at least 160 individuals, many of whom were involved in preparing for church Christmas programs.
The attacks, described as well-coordinated and brutal, were concentrated in the villages of Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, and Mangu counties. Among the victims were several church pastors, including the Rev. Solomon Gushe of Baptist Church in Dares village, who was killed along with nine family members. The majority of those who lost their lives were women, children, and older people who were unable to escape the onslaught.
The scale of the tragedy was immense, with hundreds of houses destroyed across the affected areas. Alfred Mashat, a resident of the Bokkos area, reported that about 160 Christians were killed in the attacks. The assailants, believed to be a mix of armed Muslim Fulani herders and other terrorist elements, targeted numerous predominantly Christian villages. These included NTV, Maiyanga, Ruku, Hurum, Darwat, and others.
Local officials confirmed the attacks and the high death toll. Monday, Kassah, head of the local government in Bokkos, reported 113 deaths in his area alone, with more than 300 wounded individuals rushed to hospitals in Bokkos, Jos, and Barkin Ladi. In Bokkos LGA’s Ruwi village, 16 Christians were killed, and many houses were destroyed.
The Plateau State Police Command, through its spokesman Alfred Alabo, detailed the extent of the destruction. In Bokkos LGA, 221 houses were set ablaze, along with 27 motorcycles and eight motor vehicles. The death toll in this area was reported to be over 79, with an additional 17 deaths recorded in Barkin Ladi LGA.
Plateau Governor Caleb Mutfwang expressed outrage over the attacks, describing them as “stupid, senseless, and unprovoked,” and vowed to strengthen security measures in the state. The attackers, often referred to locally as “bandits,” are a mix of criminal elements, including ethnic Fulani herders affected by drought and land scarcity. These groups, often well-armed and riding motorcycles, have been active in northern Nigeria for over a decade and have recently expanded their operations into other states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria view these attacks as part of a larger pattern of violence aimed at displacing Christian communities and imposing Islam, particularly in the Middle Belt region. Nigeria, according to the 2023 World Watch List report by Open Doors, led the world in the number of Christians killed for their faith in 2022. The country also saw the highest number of Christians abducted, sexually assaulted, forcibly married, and physically or mentally abused for faith-based reasons.
The violence in Nigeria has drawn international concern, with the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief noting in a 2020 report the intent of some Fulani groups to target Christians and symbols of Christian identity. This ongoing crisis underscores the complex interplay of religious, ethnic, and environmental factors contributing to the instability and suffering in the region.