- - Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Americans are reeling from horrific misuse of assault weapons in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, whereas in Nigeria gun control has kept law-abiding people from defending themselves against terrorists. The good news for Nigerian Christians on Thursday, Aug. 2 was that a would-be assassination of a Catholic priest was foiled by good-Samaritan neighbors who beat back terrorists with primitive weapons.

A gang of 15 terrorists armed with assault rifles attempted in the dead of night to assassinate the Rev. Father Joseph “Big Joe” Kwasau at his parish house in Kasuwan Magani in the state of Kaduna. They were forced to retreat by local residents firing  homemade hunting rifles and using bows and arrows, according to Father Kwasau, who was interviewed at a safe house Saturday by Reuben Buhari, a War Desk News reporter. Father Kwasau’s house security guard, Samuel Jerome, 38, was killed in the raid.

“I saw death face to face, and I am alive only by God’s grace and a steel door. They used an axe on it, but they couldn’t get in,” Father Kwasau said by cell phone Saturday.

Father Kwasau narrowly escaped death, he told Mr. Buhari. “I heard the barking of my dog, followed by sporadic shooting around my parish house and heard my security man shouting for help and saying thieves had invaded the house,” he said from a safe house on Saturday morning. 

“I was all alone in the house on Thursday when the noise started, then it was followed by furious banging on my front door, but it didn’t yield to their attempt, despite using axes and bullets on it. They later moved to one of my windows and broke it but couldn’t get in because of the iron fortification. All the while they continued shooting into the air to keep away locals that I knew would be attracted by the noise.

“I tried calling the local security commanders stationed close to my house without success. I also called some of my parishioners,” Father Kwasau said.

During this attack Father Kwasau’s neighbors hurried to confront the terrorists despite the mismatch in fire power. Some of them fired home-made, barrel-loading game rifles, according to a witness who spoke to Mr. Buhari.

The local residents had taken steps to arm themselves for self-defense after 11 terrorist assaults in the region since February of 2019 killed as many as 400 of the local Adara people. Kaduna police have yet to determine the motive of the terrorists or whether they were linked to the ISIS-linked Boko Haram insurgency.

“Why did they do it?” Father Kwasau asked? “I think they were paid by somebody to kill me. There is an attempt in Nigeria to exterminate all pastors and priests so that the majority of the people will become just nothing, in effect, their slaves,” he said.

Scores of Nigerian clergy have been murdered in the last three years. On Thursday evening in the state of Enugu in South-Eastern Nigeria, Father Kwasau’s fellow Roman Catholic priest was shot and killed by suspected armed herdsmen along Ihe-Agbudu Road in the Awgu Local Government Area of the state.

Father Paul Offu, the parish priest of St. James the Greater Parish, Ugbawka, reportedly was killed because kidnappers decided he wouldn’t bring a ransom from his church. Priests of the Enugu diocese marched to the Enugu State government House on Friday to protest the lax security they blamed for Father Offu’s death.

The march by outraged priests is but a single instance of protests cropping up across the nation by citizens accusing the federal government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari of failing to enforce the law.

On Saturday, the head of a group representing Southern Kaduna State’s Adara people, a predominantly Christian tribe, issued a press statement complaining of do-nothing police stationed near Kwasau’s parish residence.

“During the Kasuwan Magani attempted abduction of the Reverend Father, the kidnappers were shooting [within] hearing of several police and military personnel stationed in several places a few hundred meters away,” according to the statement issued by Awemi Dio Maisamari, the national president of the Adara Development Association.

“Yet, none of the teams of security men confronted the criminals. It was only the brave challenge by the local community that forced the kidnappers to abandon their operation and flee for their lives,” Mr. Maisamari wrote. “It is shocking that millions of Naira meant for the development of the community are being diverted in the name of security while the security itself is not serving the needs of the people.”

• Douglas Burton is a former official of the Department of State and writes on terrorism in Nigeria and the Middle East. He is the co-founder, along with Magnafaith Krimi, of the news site War Desk News and the Prayer News Network.

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