09 January 2014, The Tablet

33 Christians die in central Nigeria massacre

Gunmen have killed at least 33 people and torched dozens of homes in a Christian-majority village in central Nigeria.

Armed men believed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked Shonong village in Nigeria’s central Plateau State early on Monday morning. Villagers said the gunmen opened fire on residents and burnt down more than 30 homes.

Because most of the villagers had left for farms the majority of victims were women, children and the elderly, Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper reported.

Pastors of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, an Evangelical denomination, buried 33 of the victims on Tuesday, amid tight security.

The exact number of victims has not been confirmed. Christian news website BosNewsLife said that many villagers were still missing.

One survivor alleged that during the attack, Special Task Force (STF) soldiers, who had been stationed in the village for residents’ protection, turned on them.

“We ran to the premises of the church, and some soldiers followed us there. They were shooting and the herdsmen were shooting too. It was chaos and confusion everywhere,” one survivor, 25-year-old Antele Alamba, told Nigeria’s Morning Star News.

Christians from a neighbouring village, Fang, reportedly came to the defence of the villagers in Sholong.

Thousands of people have been killed in recent months amid escalating violence in Nigeria’s middle belt, at the point where the country’s majority Christian south meets the majority Muslim north. The attack on Shonong comes just over a week after suspected Islamic militants attacked two Christian villages in the north-east of the country.

Yiman Orkwar, the Catholic Archbishop of Makurdi in southern Benue State, said last month: “Fulani terrorists in collaboration with Boko Haram and other foreign mercenaries are causing wanton destruction of lives and property." He added: "From all indications, the terrorism being witnessed in the country is purely in pursuit of Jihad."

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