Nigerian Christian Students, Teachers Abducted from School Bus, Muslim Kidnappers Demand Ransom
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At least six children, three teachers, and the driver of a Christian school bus were kidnapped by suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen Monday night in Nigeria's Ekiti State.
The bus is owned by Apostolic Nursery and Primary School, Emure-Ekiti located in the Nigerian state, according to the media outlet Vangardngr.com.
The group of 10 were returning from a trip to Eporo-Ekiti when they were abducted by the Islamic militants, the outlet reported.
Ekiti State government confirmed the incident and said rescue efforts were underway to bring the children and teachers back safely.
Gov. Biodun Oyebanji said security agencies in the state were already on the trail of the abductors. He also called for citizens to remain calm and vigilant, urging them to share any information they had with authorities.
The Ekiti and Ondo police have launched a joint search and rescue operation in the area of the kidnappings, according to Vangardnrg.com.
The kidnappers have already contacted the families of the children, demanding 30 million NGN or approximately more than $32,000 in U.S. dollars for the return of the children and the adults, a source told the outlet.
The abduction of the Christian group follows the recent murder of two Nigerian traditional rulers by suspected Muslim herdsmen in an ambush, according to The Cable.
Nigerian traditional rulers do not have any political power but received their titles from independent states that existed before the existence of the modern country. Like the old nobility of Europe, people still respect them and they have considerable influence.
In a related development, a joint law enforcement team said they arrested five suspected kidnappers on Monday who claimed to be Fulani herdsmen, according to Vangardnrg.com.
The five men were found during an operation in the thick forest around the Iju/Ikere boundary, according to the outlet.
In a post to the social media platform X, the Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, shared a video of the empty Nigerian Christian school bus, writing: "It just keeps happening. Every day. Christians killed or kidnapped in Nigeria. The world doesn't bat an eye."
It just keeps happening.— Rev. Johnnie Moore (@ JohnnieM) January 31, 2024
Christians killed or kidnapped in Nigeria.
The world doesn't bat an eye. https://t.co/2f5s68RdvJ
As CBN News has reported for the last several years, Islamic extremist groups, including Boko Haram and the Islamic State, operate freely in parts of Nigeria. Groups like the Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani militia, are often radical Muslims who target Christians with relentless attacks on villages across the West African country.
According to Open Doors USA, the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen comprise about 38 million people who speak various languages and are nomadic. Members of the group have varying degrees of adherence to Islam.
They were early adopters of Islam, participating in jihadist "holy wars" in the 16th century that established them as a dominant social and economic force in Western Africa, according to WorldWatch Monitor.
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages. Some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom's All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.
"They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity," the APPG report said.
In April 2023, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) published its report titled Martyred Christians in Nigeria, in which the Christian watchdog group reported 52,250 Nigerian Christians had been murdered by Islamic militants over the past 14 years.
In addition, the report stated in the first 100 days of 2023, 1,041 Christians had been killed.
Nigeria currently ranks as No. 6 on the Open Doors' 2024 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country jumped to sixth place, its highest-ever ranking on the list, from No. 7 in 2022.
US State Department Fails to Recognize Nigeria as 'Country of Particular Concern'
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced a list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom. Nigeria and India failed to make the list despite severe examples of ongoing persecution against Christians.
Reacting to Blinken's announcement, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for a congressional hearing of the State Department's failure to designate Nigeria and India as CPCs, even though both countries meet the legal standard.
"There is no justification as to why the State Department did not designate Nigeria or India as a Country of Particular Concern, despite its own reporting and statements. USCIRF calls on Congress to convene a public hearing on the failure of the State Department to follow our recommendations," USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper and Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced a bipartisan resolution in the House calling on the Biden administration to re-designate Nigeria as a country that violates religious freedom. He also called for President Biden to appoint a Special Envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region to monitor and combat atrocities in the region.
"Last year alone, 5,014 Christians were killed in Nigeria—accounting for nearly 90 percent of Christian deaths worldwide as well 90 percent of Christian kidnappings across the globe," Smith said in a press release, citing a report by Open Doors International.
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