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Nigerian religious decry rising attacks

Gunmen increasingly target priests and churches


Mourners pay theirs respects to the victims killed at the St. Francis Catholic Church on June 5. Associated Press/Photo by Rahaman A Yusuf

Nigerian religious decry rising attacks

More than 700 priests and mourners slowly processed from a Catholic Church in northern Kaduna state last week to a graveyard to bury the Rev. Vitus Borogo. He was murdered late last month as he worked on his farm.

The priests prayed as they held up banners in protest that read “Enough is enough” and “Stop the killings.”

“Nigerians are traumatized,” said the Rev. Matthew Ndagoso, the bishop of Kaduna. “I am devastated because within one year, I’m burying three priests.”

Attacks targeting religious leaders in Nigeria are on the rise. Gunmen abducted two Catholic priests in southern Edo state on Sunday, and suspected bandits kidnapped another priest in Kaduna one day later. On Wednesday, attackers captured another priest on his way to celebrate mass in central Benue state.

More than 2,000 people died in 68 mass killings from January 2020 to June of this year—and that’s outside the country’s restive northeastern region, according to SBM Intelligence.

In a brazen attack on Tuesday night, suspected insurgents armed with explosives stormed a prison on the outskirts of the capital, Abuja. Hundreds of them escaped, including about 64 militants. The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) later claimed responsibility for the prison break. The United States and the United Kingdom issued separate advisories warning their citizens to expect increased crime in Abuja.

During the two-day, London-based International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief this week, British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss highlighted the Pentecost massacre in southern Nigeria’s Ondo state that killed 40 worshippers.

Ahead of the conference, groups like Christian Solidarity International called on the U.K. and the U.S. to take stronger action against the Nigerian government ahead of the conference.

“Not only is the Nigerian government largely failing to stop this violence—it is also persecuting journalists and activists who speak out about it,” said CSI’s Joel Veldkamp. “And there is considerable circumstantial evidence that elements of the Nigerian government are actually participating in these attacks.”

World Radar

FRANCE: Authorities this week repatriated 51 women and children from former Islamic State (ISIS) territory in Syria. It was the single-largest return since the group’s territorial defeat in 2019. The French national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said the group included 16 women and 35 minors, seven of them unaccompanied. Some of the women were detained on arrest warrants and taken in for questioning, while authorities placed the children under the care of child protective services. France had Europe’s highest count of citizens leaving to join ISIS.

SIERRA LEONE: President Julius Maada Bio said recently that his government unanimously backed a “risk-free motherhood” bill that could decriminalize abortions. Parliament still has to debate and vote on the legislation. Sierra Leone’s abortion law dates back to pre-independence in 1861 and protects unborn babies unless the mother’s life is at risk. The country has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. In 2015, former President Ernest Bai Koroma refused to sign the safe abortion act adopted by Parliament and called for a referendum instead.

SPAIN: Police seized six underwater drones capable of transporting more than 400 pounds of drugs from Morocco to Spain. They said the operation, which included six arrests and drug seizures, followed a 14-month investigation. Security officials said on Monday it was the first time they seized unmanned underwater vehicles. “These devices could allow drug traffickers to transport large quantities of narcotics remotely across the Strait of Gibraltar,” a police statement said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: The World Health Organization on Monday declared an end to another Ebola outbreak. The outbreak, which began nearly three months ago, was the third in the northwestern Equateur province since 2018. WHO confirmed the deaths of all four people who tested positive and one with a possible case of Ebola.The last outbreak ran from June to November 2020 and included 130 confirmed cases and 55 deaths.

INDIA: The government began phasing out some single-use or disposable plastic products last week under a larger federal plan to rid the country of plastic. The first stage includes a ban on the production, import, or sale of 19 plastic items that have a high potential to become litter—such as straws or plastic cups. Authorities also set targets for manufacturers of thousands of other plastic products to take responsibility for recycling or disposing of them after use. Small-scale sellers and activists have raised concern over how the ban would be enforced. Violators could face up to five years in prison or a $1,265 fine.

SOUTH AFRICA: Family members, students, and state officials, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Wednesday attended the mass funeral of 19 of the 21 teenagers who died in a pub last week in the coastal town of East London. The teenagers, some as young as 13, were celebrating the end of their winter school exams. The mourners shared tributes to the teenagers and expressed frustration over the mystery of their deaths. Some of the survivors have recounted smelling a foul gas like pepper spray or tear gas in the pub. One public health official confirmed the students didn’t die in a stampede. Ramaphosa called on the police to conclude their investigation as soon as possible.

Africa brief

After reporting many harrowing stories of migrants making the risky sea journey to Europe, it was heartbreaking but uplifting to read about one teenager’s bravery this week. The 17-year-old boy from Togo jumped out of a sinking rubber dinghy that had been adrift in the Mediterranean for nine days to save a baby. He clung to the wreckage while keeping the baby afloat until a rescue ship arrived. “I am a good swimmer, and I went to help people,” he later told the rescue team. I got to meet some Nigerian migrants who made the risky journey across the Mediterranean on a 2019 reporting trip.


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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