“We told the bandits that most of the captured women are widows whose husbands were killed in previous attacks,” Asake said.
“Their answer was that the women could be returned in lieu of a promise that our villagers will not go to their farms carrying any weapons,” he said. “They cannot carry even a machete, making them utterly defenseless during the next attack.”
“The International Committee on Nigeria believes the Fulani militants have an attack strategy to instill fear, cause displacement, and allow occupation of Christian farms,” Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), told CNA. The goal is to disrupt these farmers from generating a harvest and a wage. After leaving the area, these lands will be re-occupied by Fulani herders and their families,” Abts said.
The spate of attacks targeting Christian churches has been attributed to “communal violence” by analysts with the Council on Foreign Relations and the result of “clashes over land and water resources” in reports by the U.S. Department of State.
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Human rights scholars who spoke to CNA sharply disagree with those characterizations. They say the massacres in Kajuru are part of a long-term campaign by radicalized Muslims to Islamicize the whole of Nigeria.
The widespread killings by terrorist gangs along with the Islamist insurgencies of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa have taken more than 350,000 lives since 2001, said Abts, of ICON.
“The overall aim of the terrorists is economical and partly religious,” Father Agba said. “Partly religious, because many Muslims have fallen victim, too, but the frequency of the attacks is much more on the predominantly Christian parts of the state.”
The gangs that have terrorized the state of Kaduna with mass kidnappings of college students and groups of motorists on the highways have grown wealthy and powerful since they emerged in the northwestern state of Zamfara in 2011, according to bandit expert Dr. Murtala Rufa’i, a historian at the Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University in Sokoto. Scholars estimate that between 10,000 and 30,000 bandit terrorists are operating in five of Nigeria’s northwestern states.
Douglas Burton is an independent writer specializing on Nigerian terrorism from his home near Washington, DC. He began covering the campaign to retake Mosul from ISIS in 2015 and switched to covering ISIS in Nigeria in 2019. He is a former State Department official in Kirkuk Iraq.