Islamic State kills 20 Nigerian Christians as revenge for US airstrike

Onlookers gather near the bomb-damaged Shalom Church in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna June 17, 2012. Bombings at three churches in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state killed at least seven people and wounded others on Sunday, triggering retaliatory attacks by Christians. | Reuters/Stringer

The Islamic State terror group has released a video showing the execution of about 20 Christian civilians in Nigeria’s Borno State in revenge for the killing of their leader in Syria by the United States special forces in February, according to reports.

The video, published on an IS-linked news outlet, shows a masked militant executing a Christian civilian while saying it is revenge for the killing of their leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, an Iraqi Islamic terrorist and the second “caliph” of the Islamic State.

The video shows three groups of captives in civilian clothes, according to Nigeria’s newspaper The Guardian.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based group that tracks the online activity of jihadist organizations, has confirmed the video's authenticity.

Weapons are being made available to militants in Nigeria through war-torn Libya. And in the country’s Northeast region, the terrorist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province, as the IS  group is known in Nigeria, have killed thousands and displaced millions in recent years.

In a separate attack last week, unidentified gunmen stormed a Catholic parish in northern Nigeria and abducted two priests, identified as Fr. Stephen Ojapa and Fr. Oliver Okpara from the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, and two unidentified boys from St. Patrick Catholic Church in Gidan Maikambo area of Katsina state’s Kafur Local Government Area, Vatican News reported.

Earlier this month, radical Islamic militants affiliated with either the Islamic Fulani herdsmen or the Islamic State West Africa Province killed at least eight Christians, including children younger than 5, and wounded several others in an attack in Borno state.

The gunmen had AK-47 rifles and shouted, “Allah Akbar [Allah is the greatest]” while firing indiscriminately, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

In a report released last year, the Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) estimated that about 10 million people had been uprooted in northern Nigeria, where extremist violence was most severe, from July 2009 to July 2021.

The report added that about 2,000 Christian schools were attacked during that time. 

The atrocities included “massacres, killings, mutilations, torture, maiming, abductions, hostage-taking, rape, girl-child defilements, forced marriages, disappearances, extortions, forceful conversions and destruction or burning of homes and sacred worship and learning centers,” Intersociety reported.

Intersociety said the mass violence had resulted from the “propagation of radical Islamism.”

The Nigerian government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, who comes from a Fulani background, attributes the violence in the Middle Belt states to decades-old farmer-herder clashes. However, Christian human rights advocates have accused the government of overlooking religious elements and not doing enough to protect Nigerian citizens. 

Many have raised concerns about what they perceive as the government’s inaction in holding terrorists accountable for the rising number of murders and kidnappings, which some groups warn have reached the level of genocide.

Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, reported that at least 4,650 Christians were killed between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. That is an increase from 3,530 the previous year. Additionally, more than 2,500 Christians were kidnapped, up from 990 a year earlier.

Originally posted on The Christian Post.