180 Christian highschool students in Nigeria kidnapped, Fulani herdsman suspected

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Suspected Fulani herdsmen kidnapped most of the nearly 180 students at a Christian high school in Kaduna state, Nigeria, sources said.

Shooting wildly, the armed assailants breached the walls of Bethel Baptist High School in Maraban Rido, on the outskirts of the city of Kaduna at about 2 a.m. on Monday (July 5) and took the students in the school hostel away at gunpoint, area residents said.

Efforts were still underway to determine how many students were abducted at the time of this report.

A teacher reportedly said 140 students were kidnapped while 25 students escaped, but area residents living close to the school said 179 children were abducted of which only 15 escaped.

A parent prays for students abducted through breached wall at Bethel Baptist High School, Maraban Rido, Kaduna state, Nigeria on July 5, 2021. (Vincent Bodam for Morning Star News)

Established by the Bethel Baptist Church in Kaduna, a member church of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), the school was attacked after the kidnappers overcame some security personnel, sources said. It was the latest of a series of attacks on schools and colleges that have increased this year.

“It is another sad moment as Fulani bandits/gunmen attacked Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna, today,” area resident Christopher Kantoma told Morning Star News in a text message. “They kidnapped all the students of the boarding school, but only 15 of them escaped from their captors.”

The Rev. Joseph Hayab, a Baptist minister and Kaduna state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said his son was among those who narrowly escaped. Many of the students remain unaccounted for, and efforts were still underway to determine the total number of students missing, he said.

“The armed bandits kidnapped many students; right now I’m speechless,” Pastor Hayab told Morning Star News. “The school is an educational ministry of my church. This is a very, very sad situation for us.”

Area resident Vincent Bodam said in a text message to Morning Star News that parents and Christians rushed to the school and were wailing and praying for the rescue of the kidnapped students.

Omonigho Stella, another area resident, told Morning Star News by text message, “Please let us pray for divine intervention.”

Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990. In Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List list of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.

Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.

“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.

Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.

The APPG report noted that tribal loyalties cannot be overlooked.

“In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, was elected president of Nigeria,” the group reported. “He has done virtually nothing to address the behavior of his fellow tribesmen in the Middle Belt and in the south of the country.”

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.

In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”

On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

This article was first published by MorningStar News here and is republished with permission.

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