Muslim Fulani herdsmen, believed to be buoyed by Boko Haram insurgents posing as the nomadic cattlemen, continue to occupy farmland in Benue state, Nigeria, two weeks after killing more than 300 Christian farmers there in a longstanding land dispute.
Fulani leaders have said the massacre was in retaliation after farmers killed 10,000 of their cows, but eyewitnesses only reported human corpses.
“Such a mass slaughter would take weeks, and the skeletal remains of the cows would completely dot the landscape of Agatu, and the stench would permeate the air,” Morning Star News quoted human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, who visited the affected villages with a fact-finding team. “If they are there on reprisal as they claimed, since they are not [indigenous to] the villages, why have they not left after the attack — and why have they occupied the villages?”
Ogebe described the assaults as a “jihad of a sort to take over the villages.”
Fulani targeted Christians and church buildings in the massacre, but left mosques untouched, Morning Star News said.
Fulani herdsmen have clashed with Christian farmers in northeastern and middle Nigeria for more than 100 years, but the latest attack is perhaps the deadliest recorded of late. Previously, the slaughter of at least 200 farmers in May, 2014 in Galadima village, just 10 miles southwest of the capital city of Abuja, had been listed as Fulani’s deadliest attack to date, included in the 2015 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) as the 10th deadliest terrorist incident of 2014.
Fulani militants are accused of killing 1,229 people in 2014, up from just 63 the previous year, and are a growing threat to the stability of particularly Nigeria’s Middle Belt where most of the deaths occur, the GTI reported. Most of the attacks are confined to just six of the Nigeria’s 36 states, including Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba in the Middle Belt.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani, said in January that he planned to recommend a portion of land be set aside for Fulani to graze their livestock, but no progress has been noted. The Fulani tribe numbers about 20 million people, 70 percent of them nomadic, spread across at least seven West African countries.
Buhari claimed a technical defeat of Boko Haram at the end of 2015, but the ISIS-aligned militants have continued to use suicide bombers, grenades and guns to attack villages. Boko Haram has killed an estimated 17,000-20,000 in the past six years, including Christians and moderate Muslims.
— by Diana Chandler | BP