Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the massacre of farmers in Borno State which was claimed by the Boko Haram insurgents and left at least 76 people dead.
“I want to assure my prayers for Nigeria, where blood has unfortunately been spilled once more in a terrorist attack,” he said in his weekly general audience.
Remembering those who he said were “brutally killed”, he said: “May God welcome them in his peace and comfort their families, and convert the hearts of those who commit similar atrocities, which gravely offend his name.”
The terrorists attacked the area outside Borno state’s capital Maiduguri on Saturday, slaughtering dozens of labourers in rice fields near the village of Zabarmari.
It was initially unclear which of Nigeria’s jihadist factions was behind the assault, but the Boko Haram group loyal to shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video Tuesday it was “responsible for what happened around Maiduguri in recent days… especially in Zabarmari.”
The pope also used his address Wednesday to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of four missionaries who were kidnapped, raped, and killed by a paramilitary group in El Salvador during the civil war.
“With evangelical dedication, and running great risks, they were bringing food and medication to the displaced and were helping poorer families. These women lived their faith with great generosity. They are an example for everyone to become faithful missionary disciples,” he said.
At least 40 farmers were killed on Saturday morning around Marrabati and Hammayya villages, near Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists while on their way to their farms.
The farmers were waylaid on their way to their rice farms which they were harvesting before the surprise attack happened.
Some other farmers were also taken away by the insurgents.
The State Governor Babagana Zulum during the burial of the farmers on Sunday morning lamented that “it is disheartening that more than 40 citizens were slaughtered while they were working in their farmlands,” and also expressed condolence.
The governor later on Monday gave recommendations to the Federal Government on how to win the war against the terrorists. He noted that engaging mercenaries, as well as the immediate recruitment of youths into the military to boost its strength, will go a long way to defeat the insurgents.
President Muhammadu Buhari condoled with the victims and their families.
In a tweet, on Monday, President Buhari said he has given a ‘marching order’ to the Nigerian Military to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis until “we root out the terrorists.”