Nigerian bishop suspects government-level support of new wave of Islamist terror
By Murcadha O’Flaherty and John Pontifex
NEW YORK—A Roman Catholic bishop has accused authorities in Nigeria of clandestinely supplying weapons to an Islamist terrorist network, charging that the organization has infiltrated federal and state governments.
Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan, Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the government has done little or nothing to stem “a wave of terror” by Islamist Fulani herdsmen targeting Christians and others—deadly violence, which, he added, has claimed some 1,000 lives in the past year.
The bishop made his comments in the wake of an April 15 attack by Fulani herdsmen, who assaulted Catholics gathering for an Easter Vigil service outside a church in Asso village, near Kaduna. Twelve people were killed, 10 of them Catholics.
Describing the Fulani extremists as a “sister organization” to terror group Boko Haram, Bishop Bagobiri reported that no arrests have been made so far. He said: “Given the sophisticated nature of the weapons used in the [attack], it is suspected that their kin in government and the military are able to supply these arms to them.”
He continued: “Fulanis are in charge of customs, immigration and ministry of internal affairs in Nigeria today. Therefore it is easy to bring dangerous weapons across our borders with no one to prevent this. When weapons are intercepted, they are often turned over to the police and other security agencies and nothing will be heard about such weapons again.
“Again, government at both the state and federal level is headed by Fulanis who seem to be more sympathetic to the aggressors and killers than to the vulnerable victims.”
In his homily during the funeral Mass for some of the victims of the April 15 attack, the bishop said: “The Fulani herdsmen terrorists and their sister terrorist organizations are operating in the world today. This is exactly what the Fulani jihadists are doing today in southern Kaduna, the middle belt region and now with incursions into both the south-east and south-west of Nigeria.”
The bishop noted that the Fulani attackers had the use of a getaway vehicle and “sophisticated weapons” to kill the Christians who were gathering to pray. He added: “We can see that there is a well-hatched and heavily-funded program of systematic elimination.”
The bishop also called on the Nigerian government to take action against alleged vote gerrymandering to favor Islamic candidates at the expense of Christian interests in local elections. He called on media “to find a way to draw the world’s attention to this menace of the Fulani Herdsmen’s terrorist activities.”