A group of unidentified “bandits” reportedly shouting “Allahu akbar!” shot and burned alive Father Isaac Achi on Sunday in Niger state, Nigeria — ending the life of a dedicated clergyman who had already survived a Boko Haram Christmas bombing, an abduction, and another shooting.
The harrowing attack — in which the assailants shot another priest, Father Collins Omeh, who remains in the hospital at press time — is the latest in a string of increasingly common terrorist assaults on Christian communities in the north of the country by attackers colloquially referred to as “bandits.” While Boko Haram, an Islamic State affiliate, is most active in northeast Nigeria, in the northwest and “Middle Belt” region of the country, ethnic Fulani jihadists, sometimes referred to as Fulani “herdsmen,” are the greatest threat to Christians. Boko Haram terrorists tend to be of the northern Nigerian Hausa ethnicity; “Boko Haram” is a Hausa language term roughly translating to “Western education is forbidden.”
Some online reports have identified the killers of Father Achi as Fulani jihadists, but the police have neither arrested the attackers nor confirmed their identities in public at press time. Similarly, some reports have identified Father Achi as an ethnic Igbo, though major Nigerian news outlets have not confirmed these reports.
The killing occurred at the St. Peters and Paul Catholic Church in Kafin-Koro, Niger state, on Sunday evening. According to local police spokesperson DSP Wasiu Abiodun, a mob of “armed bandits” attacked the church and demanded to see Father Achi. In light of the growing wave of Christian persecution in the country, the church had reinforced its security, preventing the bandits from finding the priest. In response, they burned it down.