At least 70 Christians in Nigeria have been killed in coordinated attacks by Fulani tribesmen and the Islamic jihadist organization Boko Haram.
Fulani tribesmen reportedly killed 37 Christians in at least four coordinated attacks on the same day.
Boko Haram is reported to have killed as many as 34 Christians during the same three-day period.
William Stark, Africa analyst for the human-rights organization International Christian Concern, said the recent killing “spree” of Christians in Nigeria’s northern and middle belts regions “is, unfortunately, tragic and typical at the same time.”
“Boko Haram attacks, and attacks perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen on Christians, [are] well documented in Nigeria. What is most disturbing about the attack that took place this week was the coordination of the attacks on four villages,” he said.
Stark said many leaders believe that Boko Haram and its affiliates are inciting the Fulani to attack the Christians.
The increasingly aggressive posture of the Fulani tribe is further reason for northern Nigerian Christians to be apprehensive, he said.
“It’s a fact that many Christians in northern Nigeria are forced to live in constant fear,” Stark said. “The government has proven to be either unable or unwilling to protect Christians from attacks of this nature.”
Stark said the lack of protection leaves Christians will only two options.
“They can either stay in these dangerous areas or they can abandon their homes and flee the violence,” he said.
Responding to an increasing number of Christian deaths at the hands of Boko Haram, the U. S. State Department finally announced Nov. 13 that it has designated the jihadist group and its spinoff, Ansaru, as a terrorist organization.
The State Department said the designation is an important step toward responding to the group’s increasing number of violent actions:
These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups through a combination of law enforcement, political and development efforts, as well as military engagement, to help root out violent extremism while also addressing the legitimate concerns of the people of northern Nigeria. All of our assistance to Nigeria stresses the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring that human rights are respected. That assistance and these designations demonstrate U.S. support for the Nigerian people’s fight against Boko Haram and Ansaru.
These designations will assist U.S. and other law enforcement partners in efforts to investigate and prosecute terrorist suspects associated with Boko Haram and Ansaru.
Intelligence analysts and foreign policy observers believe the increasingly international makeup of the northern Nigeria-based group poses a growing threat.
Boko Haram, the Christian Science Monitor reported, now consists of members from the neighboring African countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Stark said he hopes the State Department’s designation means the U.S. will become more active in helping bringing the violence to an end.
Boko Haram’s kidnapping of a French priest in Cameroon reportedly triggered the State Department designation.
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said in a statement that the State Department’s designation likely was delayed for political reasons.
“I believe the administration did not want to acknowledge during the period of the campaigns that al-Qaida’s presence in Africa is strong, and so I think they waited until after the elections to do it,” Shea said.