Muslim extremists have burned down 10 Christian churches in Nigeria in an attack thought to have been sparked by a mentally retarded Christian teenager desecrating the Quran.
According to a report by the Compass news service, an undisclosed number of Christians were reported killed in the incident April 3, which occurred in the town of Makarfi. The attack resulted in the displacement of hundreds of other Christians from the town.
The following day, bodies of the dead Christians were reportedly brought to police stations in nearby Kaduna City, where some Christians were taking refuge.
A reporter with Compass witnessed trucks piled with corpses that were to be taken away for mass burial.
At a press conference last Monday, the Christian Association of Nigeria confirmed the killings and destruction of the churches.
“We are still receiving reports from affected churches on this incident and would inform you adequately on the issue once the security situation there improves,” Dr. Sam Kujiyat, vice-chairman of the Kaduna state chapter of CAN told journalists, according to the news service.
“Islamic terrorists hiding under the cover of religion have invaded the state and are now unleashing terror on Christians over stupid reasons.”
Continued Kujiyat, “The situation we are witnessing today is the emergence of a dangerous trend in which religious sentiment is being used as a cover to victimize Christians.”
CAN is asking for government funds to help in rebuilding the churches.
“It is our conclusion that Muslim leaders are deliberately using fanatics in the name of Islam to engage in periodic attacks on Christians with the sole aim to intimidate, terrorize and force Christians into submission and to denounce their faith,” Kujiyat said.
Malam Yusuf Abuakar, a Muslim residing in Makarfi, witnessed the attack and described the incident to Compass.
“A teenager, who is said be mentally retarded went into an Islamic school, took a copy of the Quran from one of the students and tore it,” Abuakar said. “This provoked the students and Muslims nearby, who then pounced on the teenager, beating him mercilessly.”
The teen is said to be in a coma.
A state government official said several people had been arrested for the attacks.