A pastor, his daughter, and more than a dozen churchgoers were kidnapped in an attack by a team of gunmen in the Kaduna state of Nigeria on Sunday that left one person dead.
Rev. Zakariah Ido, 11 girls, and five men were among those kidnapped in the early morning hours on Sunday. Sources have indicated that 20 gunmen attacked.
According to an online Nigerian newspaper called TheCable, the gunmen surrounded the church while choir members were practicing. “It was at about 12:30 midnight. We had combined choir practice in the church with other neighboring communities. We normally hold the combined choir practice from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.,” the witness said. “Everybody was terrified but there was no [way] we could run because they had already surrounded the church.”
The gunmen demanded everyone’s phones and asked where to find the pastor, according to Pastor Nath Waziri, the district church council secretary. Parishioners showed them the pastor’s home, where he, his daughter, and several others were abducted. During the attack, one of the church members was killed.
“We are helpless because there's nothing we can do other than to report to the police when such incidents happen,” another eyewitness said. “We have no arms and we cannot stand them, we are just at their mercy because they are well armed and they always come in large numbers.”
According to locals, this is the fifth attack on their community by gunmen. Although no group has yet to take credit for the kidnapping, this Nigerian region has witnessed an alarming increase of attacks from Fulani extremists. This little known terror group has wreaked havoc on the middle belt of Nigeria, ranking them the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world, according to the Independent. Boko Haram, another powerful extremist group, dominates the north of Nigeria.
Christian Post reported that in March, the governor of Kaduna state issued a dusk-to-dawn curfew with the growing violence, targeted largely at Christians.
“It is really simplifying catastrophic incidents in Nigeria by saying ‘herder-farmer conflict’ and that does not solve the problem,” Stephen Enada, who co-founded the nongovernmental organization International Committee on Nigeria, told the Christian Post in March. “We need to face reality on the ground and call a spade a spade. In Southern Kaduna, a village is almost wiped out and over 200 people have been killed in the last week.”
The attack comes only weeks after Boko Haram kidnaped another pastor in Borno State. Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has expressed apprehension for Nigeria, asking the State Department to designate the country of “particular concern” for religious freedom violations.
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