Suspected Fulani herdsmen attack Catholic seminary, injuring priests and students

Men march along the truck carrying the coffins of people killed by the Fulani herdsmen, in Makurdi, Nigeria January 11, 2018. | REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Suspected Fulani herdsmen have carried out an attack on a Catholic minor seminary in Nigeria's "Middle Belt" region, injuring the priests and some of the students.

According to The Punch, two priests were beaten up while another was shot in the leg when the herdsmen stormed the Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State on Monday.

Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey, the director of Caritas Nigeria, confirmed the attack in a statement.

"Please, pray for us. Our minor seminary in Jalingo has just been attacked by Fulani men; some students are injured, some cars destroyed, two priests beaten up and one shot in the leg. They are currently receiving treatment at the FMC," Bassey stated, as reported by The Punch.

The rector of the seminary, Fr. Emmanuel Atsue, said that the assailants shot continuously at his residence, as well as a vehicle belonging to another priest.

"They shot and injured one of the priests, Father Cornelius Pobah, in the leg, [and] beat up Father Stephen Bakari," the rector narrated, as reported by Crux.

He said that some of the residents at the seminary heard the conversations of the assailants. "From their conversations, we were able to understand that their grievance against us is that the security men in the seminary have been challenging their decision to graze right inside the seminary: around the classes, football field, laundry etc.," Atsue said in a statement about the attack, according to Crux.

"They said [they would do so] even inside the church, if they see grass their cows will graze," he added.

Atsue noted that none of the seminarians are missing, but some were injured. He noted that the bishop had approved a one-week break to give the students some time to cope with the trauma and to show the parents that they were not harmed. Those who sustained injuries in the attack were reportedly brought to the Federal Medical Center.

The rector noted that calm has been restored in the area with the help of the Nigerian police, the army, civil defense and some local vigilantes.

The attack came just days after the mass burial of 19 Catholics, who were killed during an assault at a Catholic Church in the state of Benue in April.

During the mass burial on May 22, Gov. Samuel Ortom revealed that the attacks carried out by Fulani militants have already killed 492 people in Benue state alone this year.

He noted that the militant herders have stepped up the attacks in recent months after the introduction of a 2017 law that banned open grazing in the state.

On the same day of the mass burial, Catholics across Nigeria took part in a nationwide protest to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to increase the efforts to stop the killing of Christians.

Ortom noted that the mass burial on May 22 was not the first of its kind in the state. In January, a mass burial was held for 73 victims of an attack that took place in Guma and Logo during the New Year.