The attacks on Christian congregations across Benue state in north-central Nigeria during Holy Week have left almost 94 people dead, an ominous sign of escalating violence blamed on Muslim militias.
A young boy was killed, and the pastor and other worshipers were kidnapped by armed men in Akenawe-Tswarev in Logo County, Benue State, during a Palm Sunday service at a Pentecostal church on April 2, 2023.
The Associated Press reported that on April 5, gunmen killed at least 50 people in Umogidi, a Catholic stronghold in western Benue.
On Good Friday, April 7, 2023, Muslim shooters attacked an elementary school building in the village of Ngban that houses approximately 100 displaced Christian farmers and their families and killed dozens.
Father Remigius Ihyula, the head of the Benue branch of the Justice, Development, and Peace Commission (JDPC), a Nigerian Catholic relief organization, said, "The April 7 attack left 43 people dead and more than 40 injured."
The outgoing governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, had urged residents to remain vigilant before the attack and accused police and soldiers of taking too long to respond to his calls for assistance.
Four years ago, Ortom demanded that federal laws be changed to allow citizens to purchase firearms for self-defense, but he failed.
The following day, a relief worker from JDPC who requested anonymity told CNA that she approached the police officers manning the checkpoint near the school to ask for assistance.
“According to survivors and police, police fought the attackers and possibly killed some, but the marauders retrieved their dead on their way out of the school compound,” she said.
“I doubt that the survivors of the attack on the primary school will be able to attend church on Easter Sunday since they need medicine and trauma counseling,” Father Ihyula said.
According to a report by ThisDayLive.com, a Nigerian news outlet, Ortom said at least 134 people were killed in attacks in Benue over five days, including 47 in an April 3 raid in Apa. On Monday, it wasn't immediately clear if Christians were targeted.
Approximately 2 million displaced people in Benue State cannot live on their traditional farmlands out of fear of death. A farmer retreats to displaced person camps at night to cultivate their fields during the day.
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