On Christmas Eve, extremists with the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) killed at least five people and abducted several others in Garkida, home to one of the first missionary settlements in northern Nigeria. Witnesses said the insurgents burned at least three churches, including two belonging to the EYN Church of the Brethren, which began in the town. “The church said they spent Christmas Eve in the bush and that some houses were selectively burned,” said Zakariya Musa, EYN’s media spokesperson.
Garkida is one of several communities in Nigeria and other African countries that recorded intensified extremist attacks over the holiday.
In a separate attack on the same day on a village in northeast Nigeria, residents said Boko Haram insurgents killed seven people, burned down another EYN church, stole medical supplies and food, and abducted a preacher. Musa said the attackers targeted at least three more towns on Dec. 26. They destroyed several properties, including churches rebuilt in 2014.
In a video released on Dec. 29, ISWAP extremists executed five Christian men dressed in orange robes “as a warning to Christians in all parts of the world and those in Nigeria.” It remains unconfirmed if the executions are linked to the attack days earlier in Garkida.
“It’s a sense of deja vu, the same way the Islamic State would do it in Iraq or Syria,” said Illia Djadi, a senior analyst with Open Doors.
On New Year’s Eve in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, insurgents with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group killed at least 25 people and kidnapped several others. The rebels mostly targeted farmers working on their fields. “We are in mourning,” said Sabiti Njiamoja, the regional government representative. The ADF began in neighboring Uganda and ramped up its attacks in the region after the Congolese military launched an offensive last year.
Niger marked three days of mourning after more than 100 civilians died in attacks on two villages in the country’s restive western region on Jan. 2. No group claimed responsibility, but local officials said the attacks came after residents killed two rebel fighters. Extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State remain active in Niger, and the country also battles spillover from the unrest in Mali and Nigeria.
The same day, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Somali capital of Mogadishu that killed five people and wounded 14 others. It’s the second time extremists targeted a road construction project led by a Turkish company. Officials confirmed the dead include two Turkish nationals.
In Mali, two French soldiers died and another sustained injuries after an improvised explosive device struck their armored vehicle. Al Qaeda’s North Africa wing claimed the attack. Some 50 French soldiers have died in the nation since France began aiding the country’s fight against extremism in 2013.
Djadi called on the countries’ governments to protect civilians, especially in vulnerable communities. Despite the attacks, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri told Aid to the Church in Need he remains undaunted. “The attacks are to make the communities scared and to spoil the Christmas celebrations,” he said. “We will never allow our faith to be taken away by evil.”