At least a dozen Christians were killed and several churches burned in Christmas Eve attacks on villages in northern Nigeria following death threats by Boko Haram Islamist militants.
It marked the second consecutive year Christians in the region were targeted during the Christmas season.
International Christian Concern reported Boko Haram terrorists invaded Pyemi, a village near Chibok, and killed seven. The Christmas Eve violence followed a threat Boko Haram issued after a previous attack on a town in Southern Niger left 27 dead.
“The threat said that Christians would be attacked and killed during the Christmas season,” International Christian Concern stated.
Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria —EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria—reported three churches in Garkida, another village in northern Nigeria, were set on fire by Boko Haram, five individuals in the village were killed and five remained missing after a Christmas Eve attack.
Yuguda Z. Mdurwva, who leads EYN disaster relief ministry, reported separately that a church on the outskirts of Garkida was burned on Christmas Eve, and robbers looted stores in the town and stole drugs from the Garkida General Hospital.
On the day after Christmas, three more churches and multiples homes were destroyed in Tashan Alade, Kiritu and Debiro, said Zakariya Musa, head of media for EYN.
“The renewed attacks are coming almost on a daily basis in different ways, resulting in killings, kidnapping, destruction of properties,” Musa said.
EYN General Secretary Daniel Mbaya said rumors of an attack were known days prior.
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“We had the information three days before the attack, and security agencies were informed,” Mbaya said. “They (Boko Haram) had sent word that they were coming to do ‘Christmas’ in town and specifically mentioned Garkida. Most people fled into the bush.”
Nathan Johnson, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for Africa, said: “Boko Haram promised that they would attack Christians and fulfilled this promise. Many say that Boko Haram does not hate Christianity, however, this attack shows their true intention towards Christians in Nigeria. This is the second year in a row where Christians have been slaughtered by the group on Christmas Eve. It is time for the Nigerian government to end these atrocities.”
The U.S. State Department recently added Nigeria to its list of countries considered most egregious violators of religious freedom, designating it as a country of particular concern. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom had recommended that action since 2009.