NIAMEY, NIGER: June 19, 2019. (Stefan J Bos for BosNewsLife) The Islamist group Boko Haram has threatened to kill all Christians in south-eastern Niger unless they leave the area within days, Christian aid workers told BosNewsLife.
Several rural Christian families have already fled to the regional city of Diffa after receiving a message saying: “You have three days to go, or you will be killed!” from the militants, said Barnabas Fund, a well-informed Christian aid group.
One of the threatening messages was reportedly delivered by a freed Christian woman who was abducted from Kintchendi village by the Islamist group on June 7.
Boko Haram and related militants already killed dozens of civilians and displaced thousands during a recent spike in violence in the Diffa region of Niger, according to United Nations officials.
Barnabas Fund noted that the violence has displaced about 200,000 people in Niger, including those displaced in the country as well as many fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency in neighboring Nigeria.
Church pastors in Niger close to conflict zones are now taking refuge with other Christians in the relative safety of the West African country’s capital, Niamey said a Barnabas Fund contact in remarks seen by BosNewsLife.
“This means that no church minister now lives in the premises of the church, at least in these dangerous areas. I do not know how the services take place every Sunday, but the churches are not closed,” added the contact, who wasn’t identified amid security concerns.
Earlier this month, on June 2, the governor of the Diffa region had reportedly ordered churches closed due to the terror threats. Soon after, in the second week of June, Niger security forces “countered a terrorist attack” on a church in the border area, explained Barnabas Fund.
Amid the bloodshed, a church minister who spent weeks in hospital after being shot three times by Islamist militants at his church in Niger last month was released from the hospital this month, Christians said.
The suspected Islamic militants raided the church in Dolbel, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) from ‘Niger’s capital, Niamey, and shot the minister in the chest, hip and foot, before driving off in his car, added Barnabas Fund