As Islamic State releases a video claiming to show the killing of 11 Christians in Nigeria, persecution watchdog Release International names Nigeria as a country of special concern for 2020.

Release International
Release International

A splinter group of Boko Haram has produced a video claiming to show the beheading of 10 Christians in Nigeria and the shooting of an eleventh. The video was produced by the terrorist group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Its release on December 26 appears to be timed to coincide with the Christmas celebrations.

ISWAP claimed the hostage murders were in revenge for the death of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself during an attack by US forces in October.

Voice-over commentary to the video stated: 'This message is to the Christians in the world. Those you see are Christians and we will shed their blood as revenge.'

Nigeria 'country of concern'

The latest murders come as persecution watchdog Release International names Nigeria as a key country of concern for 2020.

'Tens of thousands of Christians are being driven from their homes by the ongoing persecution in Nigeria,' says Release CEO Paul Robinson. 'While the death toll is rising, the world simply watches. Nigeria's government appears to lack the will or the power to prevent the killings.'

Christians in Nigeria are being targeted by three Islamist terror groups: Boko Haram, its offshoot ISWAP, and heavily armed Fulani militia who are killing thousands and taking over their villages.

Release International's Nigeria partner, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, says: 'Across the north, the mainly Muslim Fulani have been taking land from predominantly Christian farmers by force and occupying their villages.'

'They attack, typically, in the middle of the night while people are sleeping. They shoot in the air and create panic to drive the villagers out. When the people flee from their houses into the darkness, the Fulani lie in wait with their machetes and cut them down. Again and again. And the government seems powerless to stop them.'

Writing in a recent book, Neither Bomb Nor Bullet (Lion Hudson 2019), Archbishop Kwashi warns: 'Nigeria has become the largest killing ground for Christians in the world today.'

In 2015 the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) named Fulani extremists as the fourth- deadliest terror group in the world. By 2018, GTI reported: '"Deaths attributed to Fulani extremists are estimated to be six times greater than the number committed by Boko Haram.'

In 2019, GTI reported that deaths attributed to Fulani elements had risen by 261 per cent in a single year. 'Eighty-four per cent of these armed assaults targeted civilians'. The report continued: Fulani extremists had become the 'primary driver of the increase in terrorism' in sub-Saharan Africa.

'And in 2020, these attacks by Fulani militia are set to continue,' warns Paul Robinson of Release International. 'Our contacts on the ground say the government does not have the will to stop the land-grab and provide security for Christians.'

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