ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) – Gunmen attacked two churches in rural northwestern Nigeria on Sunday, killing three people, witnesses and a state official said, weeks after a similar attack in the West African country killed 40 worshipers.
The attack in the Kajuru area of Kaduna state targeted four villages, resulting in the kidnapping of an unspecified number of residents and the destruction of homes before the attackers could escape, locals said.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on the Kaduna churches. Much of Nigeria is grappling with security issues, with Kaduna being one of the worst-hit states. Last week, at least 32 people were killed in an attack that lasted hours in four villages in the Kajuru area.
Worshipers were attending worship services at Maranatha Baptist Church and St. Moses Catholic Church in Kaduna’s Rubu community on Sunday morning when “they (the attackers) just came and surrounded the churches,” both in the same area, Usman Danladi said, who lives nearby.
“Before they (worshippers) noticed, they already terrorized them; some started attacking inside the church and others went to other areas,” Danladi said. He added that “most of the abducted victims are from Baptists (church), while the three dead were Catholics.”
The Kaduna state government confirmed the three deaths by bandits who “stormed the villages on motorcycles, starting at Ungwan Fada and going to Ungwan Turawa, before Ungwan Makama and then Rubu.” Security patrols are being conducted in the general area,” said Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna Security Commissioner.
The Christian Association of Nigeria condemned Sunday’s attacks and said churches in Nigeria have become “targets” of armed groups.
“It is very unfortunate that while we have not yet come out of mourning for those killed two Sundays ago in Owo, another has happened in Kaduna,” Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the association’s spokesperson, told The Associated press. “It’s become a recurring decimal.”
Many of the attacks on rural areas in Nigeria’s troubled northern region are similar. The motorcyclists often arrive by the hundreds in areas where Nigerian security forces are outnumbered and outnumbered. It usually takes months for police to make arrests and authorities have identified the attackers as mostly young Fulani herders who are embroiled in Nigeria’s pastoral conflict between host communities and herders over limited access to water and land.