By BosNewsLife Africa Service
Nigerian security forces under pressure to improve protection of Christians.
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christian residents were among those hiding Saturday, August 9, in hills of northeastern Nigeria after Islamic militants killed more than 100 people in and around the Christian town of Gwoza, rights activists and local residents said.
An evangelical pastor and family members were among those killed in the area, Christian rights activists told BosNewsLife.
The killings began when fighters of the militant Boko Haram group dressed in military uniforms arrived in Gwoza on motorcycles, in trucks, and in up to 50 Toyota Hilux vans during the early hours of Wednesday, August, 6, witnesses said.
They reportedly overran the town, killing residents and prompting many to flee to the hills.
Christians said militants also burned and looted homes and buildings after filling their trucks with food stocks for their base in the Sambisa Forest.
Survivors said "over a hundred residents" may have lost their lives as the militants conducted door to door searches killing men, women and children.
Corpses were reportedly still scattered around Gwoza, but residents trapped in hills said no one can go in to recover those human remains as militants still roam the streets.
Boko Haram, which translates as 'Western education is sinfull', also attacked the predominantly Christian town of Limankara, some 22 kilometers (14 miles) outside from Gwoza, as part of its campaign to establish a strict Islamic state, according to investigators of rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Among those killed in Limankara was Pastor Musa Gaiyo of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), his father and three of his children, Christians said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones in the appalling attacks on Gwoza and Limankara, and particularly with Pastor Gaiyo’s family and congregation," said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
While an attack on Limankara’s National Mobile Training School was eventually repelled and many insurgents were killed, it prevented the police from protecting the local community, CSW complained in a statement.
Boko Haram fighters also "stole 30 head of cattle from one of the victims," the group said.
After attacking Limankara, militants reportedly returned to Gwoza and continued to destroy the town while its residents were forced to look on from the hills.
The Gwoza Local Government Area where the towns are located has been under sustained Islamic attacks for over a year.
CSW claimed most residents already spent the night in the hills at night for as many as four months, descending in the morning to cook food and return with it to higher area.
Christians said they are concerned about their future “Now that they have burned...houses and taken...foodstuffs."
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has come under international and local pressure to improve security for the Christian community in especially northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram has also been known for kidnapping Christians, including hundreds of school girls who remain missing.
Yet authorities claim some success against Boko Haram with special forces reportedly reclaiming villages in Borno state, including Damboa, Manga, Wanga, Delwa and Mustafari Villages from the insurgents.
However, "It is deplorable that the residents of Gwoza have been terrorised for so many months, and are now internally displaced, having lost their homes and livelihoods," Thomas said.
"The pain of watching from the hills as terrorists dismantle their lives and leave the bodies of loved ones exposed to the elements is unimaginable. While we applaud the reported advances by special forces, we urge state and federal authorities to send assistance to the people of Gwoza before they succumb to current privations," he added.
CSW urged authorities to "compensate adequately" local Christian and other victims "so they can begin to rebuild their lives.”
(With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos)