Kafanchan, Nigeria, Jan 3, 2017 / 10:46 am America/Denver (CNA).
Islamist violence and terrorism has killed more than 12,000 Christians in Nigeria, destroying some 2,000 churches. Boko Haram has perpetrated the bulk of the killings, but in the past year a new source of Islamist terror has hit the country in the form of the Fulani Herdsmen Terrorists (FHT).
In just the last three months, the group – drawn from the rank of the nomadic Fulani people – has swept across half of Kaduna State, in northern Nigeria, a local bishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of the Diocese of Kafanchan gave an accounting of attacks in his area since September 2016: “53 villages burned down, 808 people murdered and 57 wounded, 1,422 houses and 16 churches destroyed.” Though little know in the West, FHT is becoming a huge menace to Christians and moderate Muslims alike.
Historically, there have been sporadic conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers fighting over land, but Fulani herdsmen, the bishop said, are now using “sophisticated weapons they didn’t have before, such as AK-47s of unknown provenance.”
He added: “In addition to the social and economic that have fueled conflict since ancient times, such as the distribution of the land and shortage of grazing, the dimension of the problem has changed. The Fulani are Muslim and the land they are attacking belongs mainly to ethnic groups that are Christian; now there is religious hatred driving the violence.” Fulani aggression, the bishop said, “has turned into religious persecution.”