By Reuben Buhari (WardlDesknews.com)
(Kasuwan Magani, Nigeria) Terrorists armed with assault rifles attempted to assassinate a popular Catholic priest here but were beaten back by local residents firing hunting rifles and using bows, according to Rev. Fr. Joseph Kato Kwasau, who narrowly escaped death Thursday morning. His house security guard, Samuel Jerome, 38, was killed by the band of 15 terrorists.
Later that day in the state of Enugu in South-Eastern Nigeria, another Roman Catholic Priest wasn’t as lucky. Father Paul Offu, the parish priest of St. James the Greater Parish, Ugbawka, reportedly was shot and killed by suspected armed herdsmen along Ihe -Agbudu Road in Awgu Local Government Area of the state.
Fr. Kwasau, 59, known affectionately as “Big Joe,” is the head of St Luke Catholic Church in Kasuwan Magani, a troubled town in the infamous murder zone of Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state. He said he was awakened to the sounds of shots from AK 47 rifles and banging on his front door at 12:22 am on 1st August, 2019.
“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,” he said. “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, but the armed assailants had stationed others around my house.
During this attack local residents were prepared with some weapons for self-defense after 11 terrorist assaults in the region since February of 2019 that have claimed as many as 400 lives.
“By this time, the locals around my house had started mobilizing,” Fr. Kwasau said. “Those with hunting rifles and bows with arrows kept inching closer to my house. After a few minutes, one man got closer and fired his rifle and others fired theirs, too. As their numbers increased, the assailants climbed over my fence and left screaming that they would be back,” he said.
Neighbors who repelled the attackers told him later that his assailants came in a Peugeot bus locally known as J-5 and that they numbered around 15 – all fully armed with assault rifles.
One of the local residents who helped in repealing the attackers told War Desk: “I was sleeping when I heard gunshots around 12 midnight. I crept outside and saw people with guns around the Reverend Father’s house. They were continuously shooting into the air. They even had one gunman standing on the middle of the Kachia-Kaduna highway firing sporadic shots,” the man said, declining to give his name. “After about 30 minutes, other people around the house mustered up courage and started shouting while those with Dane guns started shooting toward the house of the priest,” the witness continued. “After about 30 minutes, the gunman standing on the road blew a whistle and the others came out from the parish house into a waiting bus, and they drove northward after killing the priest’s security man.”
Asked why someone would want to kill him, Fr. Kwasau said it was because he had been speaking out for the indigenous Adara people of Kasuwan Magani. He further explained that during the violent crises of February and October 2018 in that town he had been rallying the Christians to stand as one and to pray together.
“I kept urging them not to take the law into their hands but be ready to stand, pray and defend themselves when attacked. Also, whenever any are arrested by the security agencies, I visit them and minister to their physical and spiritual needs. I kept speaking up for them and it could be that it got to the stage that some in Kasuwan Magani considered that as offensive and decided I should be killed,” he said.
“Someone simply sat down and decided to have me killed so as to silence me,” he said. “They think killing me would pave the way for them to continue in their evil acts, but I shall continue to speak the truth,” he told War Desk News
Kasuwan Magani, located south-west of Kaduna is about 25 miles from the city center and has been the scene of violence between native Adara people and Hausa-Fulani inhabitants of the town. There is a long history of violence and ethnic cleansing in the region. A violent clash on October 18th, 2018, ended in the death of a hundred local people – though the official police count was only 55,” he said.
The 59- year-old priest, who has served as a priest for 32 years, has vowed to return to his ministry despite the danger, he told War Desk from a temporary hideout. He said he is not scared and is even making plans to go back to his flock in Kasuwan Magani once his door and window are repaired.
“I am not scared because I have a mentor who was also killed, and he is Jesus Christ. He was not killed because he was an armed robber, nor was he a thief, or did anything bad; he was killed because of telling people the truth. Once I fix my door and the window, I am going back,” he said, adding that his security lies with God Almighty.