Pastor kidnapped along with sons and nephew in Northern Nigeria.

Fulani herdsmen in north-central Nigeria on Saturday (July 24) killed a Christian pastor they had kidnapped two weeks before, a church source said.

The Rev. Danlami Yakwoi of the ECWA was killed on July 25, 2021. (ECWA Facebook)

The Rev. Danlami Yakwoi of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) was kidnapped on July 12 along with two of his sons and a nephew in Tawari, Kogi state, and died after being tortured, church secretary Musa Shekwolo said.

“One of his children who was kidnapped along with him was released on Sunday, July 25, and he informed us that his father died a day before his release by the herdsmen,” Shekwolo told Morning Star News by text message. “The pastor’s captors are yet to release his corpse to his family, and two of his family members are still being held captive.”

Pastor Yakwoi’s family paid a ransom for the release of his son, Shekwolo said.

“Please be in prayer with his family and the church at this trying moment,” he said.

In Ugwolawo, Kogi state, Dr. Solomon Nidiamaka, a Christian medical doctor, was kidnapped on July 19 from General Hospital in Ofu County, an area resident said.

“He was kidnapped by Muslim Fulani herdsmen at 8:30 a.m. in the premises of the hospital,” Esther Audu told Morning Star News by text message.

The chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Omakoji Oyiguh, confirmed the abduction in a press statement.

“Please be in prayers with us,” Oyiguh said.

In Koton Karfe, Kogi state on July 14, Fulani herdsmen kidnapped an unidentified pastor and his wife, an area resident said, but it was not possible to independently verify the report.

In Kaduna state, 28 of the more than 120 students abducted from Bethel Baptist High School earlier this month have been released. The AP reported that a total of 34 of the students had been released or had escaped.

More than 80 children remain in captivity by the gunmen, the Rev. Israel Akanji, president of the Baptist Convention, reportedly said. Church officials returned the released students, who had been kidnapped in the wee hours of July 5 by suspected Fulani herdsmen, to their parents at the school on Sunday (July 25).

Akanji reportedly said the church paid no ransom for the students but could not stop their the families from taking action to win their release. The kidnappers have reportedly demanded 500,000 naira (US$1,214) for each student.

Nigerian Police spokesman Mohammed Jalige said security forces and civilian defense forces found three of the kidnapped students in the wilds on July 12, and that two other children escaped on July 20 while they were gathering firewood.

Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990. In Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch 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.

Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to the World Watch List report. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.

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.

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