ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Nigerian Islamic militants have threatened a massive bloodbath after killing at least two Christians in recent days, forcing thousands of people to flee their villages along Nigeria's northeast, refugees said Saturday June 22.
The reported threats came as local believers were mourning Christian Toma Vongjen, 40, who was reportedly killed by Fulani Muslims in attacks that also left church buildings in four villages in Plateau state completely destroyed.
The June 18 violence in Wase area, 216 kilometers (134 miles) southeast of Jos city, came days after other militants of the group Boko Haram, or 'Western education is a sin', killed a pastor and torched four churches in Borno state, residents said.
Reverend Jacob Kwiza was killed in the state's Mandara Hills area after he refused to renounce his faith in Christ, said local villager Tada Garuta. "The gunmen threw some explosives at our church, they forced the retired reverend to renounce Christianity and be converted to Islam. But the pastor defied the gunmen's threat of being killed," Garuta told media.
"After he refused to renounce his faith. They slit his throat with sharp objects; and we started to flee for safety, as we don't know the next targets of these gunmen."
The murder came as Boko Haram fighters attacked the Hwa'a, Kunde, Gathahure and Gjigga settlements by night, fire bombing four churches while chanting "Allahu Akbar" or "Allah is Great", Nigerian media reported.
Boko Haram attacks were apparently in revenge for the reported destruction of the group's bases by the Nigerian military in the nearby Sambisa Games Reserve.
The Islamists allegedly also stole grain and livestock before they left at sunrise.
All the attacked villages are located near the borders of the Borno forest, Christians said, though Nigerian government forces earlier claimed they had captured the area from Boko Haram during anti-terrorist operations.
Besides attacking churches, Boko Haram targeted schools in recent days, killing 16 high school students and two teachers in two attacks.
Boko Haram and affiliates have made clear they wants to carve out a strict Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and the continent's biggest oil producer, and ordered Christians to leave especially northern areas, where many Muslims live.
The thousands of people who escaped the bush near Nigeria's border with Cameroon fled to the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, residents said, adding that militants from Boko Haram also wrote letters warning government workers to resign their jobs or face death. Other villagers left for Cameroon.
"They warned government officials and civil servants in Bama to resign or else face death in the next seven days. We are all scared, this could be more deadly, so we ran for our dear lives," said Abba Fannami who fled to Maidguri with six family members, in remarks published by The Associated Press (AP) news agency.
Police said Boko Haram fighters were ransacking homes in neighboring Gwoza district, forcing residents to hide in caves in the rocky hills.
Boko Haram and affiliates have made clear they wants to establish a strict Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and the continent's biggest oil producer, and ordered Christians to leave especially northern areas, where many Muslims live.
Christians have complained that the government-led emergency and a military and police crackdown since May 14 has failed to crush the extremists blamed for the killings of more than 1,600 people since 2010.