At least 19 people were killed in an attack allegedly carried out by Muslim cattle herders on a Catholic church in Nigeria. Muslim gunmen opened fire and killed at least 17 parishioners and two priests in the Mbalom area of Benue state — part of the so-called Middle Belt region, which played a pivotal part in Nigeria’s elections.
AllAfrica Suspected Muslim herdsmen in the early hours of yesterday, stormed St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom Parish, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State, killing two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners. Reverend Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, who were holding the morning Mass were gunned down in cold blood, while many sustained injuries, including bullet wounds.
The latest attack came barely four days after the murder of 10 persons by herdsmen in neighbouring Guma Local Government Area and the destruction of 300 houses by men suspected to be military personnel in Naka, Gwer West Local Government Area of the state.
After attacking the church, the invaders descended on the community and razed over 60 houses, farmland, food barns after carting away what the people had in their barns. After killing the helpless worshippers and razing the community, the attackers fled from the scene.
Reacting through a statement, the Director of Communications Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Father Moses Iorapuu, said: “Rev Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha have been confirmed dead in the deadly attack by herdsmen/Jihadists early today (yesterday) on Mbalom village and St. Ignatius Quasi Parish Ukpor-Mbalom.
“In their classic style, they burnt down homes, destroyed food items and killed at will. The police seem to know nothing of the attacks which have been going on in other villages within Benue State since the Anti Open Grazing Law came into effect last year.
“Many people are asking why the international community has remained silent over the massacre of Benue citizens? The answer is simple: It has been the goal of the Jihadists to conquer Benue and Tiv people who resisted their advance into the Middle Belt and the Eastern part of Nigeria since 1804; the people who rejected Islam and fought for the unification of Nigeria in the civil war of 1967-1970.
“The people of Eastern Nigeria, therefore, have little sympathy for Benue people who fought on the side of Nigeria. The Muslim North is enjoying a sweet revenge overshadowed by an insensitive regime.
Over the past few years, Muslim Fulani herdsmen have attacked mostly-Christian farmers in the region in violence that has both religious and ethnic undertones. The area also is a hotbed for violent clashes between mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and mostly Christian farmers.