Nigeria: Boko Haram Kill 17 Kids
Early Sunday morning on June 1, the church in Attagara, located in the Gwoza local government area, had already begun its regular worship service when more than 100 Islamic militants, some dressed in the combat fatigues worn by Nigeria’s army, stormed the church building. Chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great), the Boko Haram militants shot over fifty people, killing 27. Those who tried to escape were chased down by the fighters.
Several Christians ran from the scene to a military checkpoint almost two miles down the road to ask for help. However, Nigerian army personnel were not able to respond. Meanwhile, the Boko Haram rebels were moving from home to home in the Attagara, burning down houses and killing anyone in their way, including small children.
A group of young men in the village took matters in their own hands, and armed with sticks, bows and arrows, they decided to fight back against the militants. Clergy and church elders tried to stop the vigilantes, who killed seven of the attackers.
Situated in Borno state, Attagara is a small village in Gwoza, a local government area (similar to a county). The Boko Haram movement is headquartered in Borno state. VOM contacts described Attagara as a unique Christian community with over 7,000 believers and a small percentage of non-Christians and Muslims. Another 3,500 Christians live in nearby villages. The Christians in the area were so faithful that area Muslims called them “Radicals for Christ.”
A Revenge AttackOn June 3, just two days after the first attack, Boko Haram drove through the village at 7:30 a.m. disguised as members of the army and called people to the church for a security briefing. Instead, the 45 people who gathered in the church were gunned down. None survived.
Immediately afterward, hundreds of insurgents came over the hills to raid the village. They killed anyone they saw, including pregnant women and small children. One witness saw a group of about 30 women and children being rounded up. As the women tried to shelter the children, the insurgents demanded that the children come forward. They slaughtered 17 boys.
The insurgents also raided surrounding villages, reducing them to ashes. Churches were bombed and explosive devices set to destroy Christian homes and public buildings. Dozens of Christians were killed as they tried to escape into the hills to try to hide in caves.
The attack lasted for over five hours. Afterward, it was uncertain how many people were killed, and how many were kidnapped. Though these attacks have been occurring with frightening frequency in Gwoza, this attack struck a deep nerve. VOM’s medical coordinator in Nigeria broke down in tears when he heard how the 17 children were killed. He and the team are working to provide medical attention for those that were injured in the attack.