A local Christian leader in Nigeria has confirmed gunmen killed two of the 60 hostages who were abducted two weeks ago at a church in Kaduna state.
As CBN News previously reported, the 60 Christians were taken hostage after a group of bandits reportedly stormed Emmanuel Baptist Church in the Kakau Daji area during a worship service. One person was killed in the attack.
According to local news outlet Punch, Rev. Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said two of the worshippers had been killed by their captors. Three others were seriously injured and were hospitalized.
Hayab directly called on the Nigerian government for help.
"The lives of the Kaduna abducted worshipers are in danger and require an urgent intervention of government and security agencies. The insecurity in Kaduna state has continued to grow beyond our imagination and is threatening the peace of the nation," he told Punch's correspondent in a text message.
The Open Doors UK ministry reports the telephone system had been shut down at the time of the attack, making matters even worse by preventing any outside calls for help.
"This kidnapping is a shocking example of the audacity of the so-called bandits and the impunity that is escalating, seemingly without bounds in Nigeria," said Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors' work in sub-Saharan Africa.
"The government is grossly failing its citizens in this matter and the continuing lawlessness is creating ideal breeding ground for extremism," he added. "We call on the international Body of Christ to remain in fervent prayer for the release of the church members, and pray that the Lord will use this situation to bring a breakthrough in this situation."
Government officials claim that security measures have improved. However, Hayab says it has worsened.
"We are seriously worried now," the reverend explained. "The truth about the shutdown of network of telecom services is that people who are making policies are not fair to the citizens. You will agree with me that government is doing trial and error, and this has not worked to curb insecurity in the state."
The bandits allegedly told a victim's family to pay more ransom due to the extra effort taken to reach relatives.
"The abducted Emmanuel Baptist Church worshippers would have cried out on Sunday to facilitate their rescue and for people to know that they were endangered, but they could not cry out," Hayab added. "So, the shutdown of telecom network even assisted the bandits more."
CBN News previously reported that the alarming rise in kidnappings has forced more than a dozen schools in Kaduna, mostly Christian institutions, to close.
The Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority ordered the shutdown after 121 students were abducted in July by armed bandits at Bethel Baptist High School in Damish.
A group of gunmen stormed the school in Damishi town, shooting sporadically as they kidnapped dozens of students, police said.
It was the fourth abduction of students in Kaduna State in the past six months. There have been seven mass kidnappings of students in Nigeria so far this year.
International Christian Concern, a persecution watchdog, reports these large-scale kidnappings were originally thought to have been carried out by loosely organized bandits. But recently, Kaduna state governor El Rufai informed the public that these ransoms were used to fund Boko Haram and their radical Islamic agenda.
In addition, a Nigerian Roman Catholic journalist who writes for the Epoch Times was arrested by the government last week. Luka Binniyat has been reporting about the continuing attacks on Nigeria's Christian communities and the lack of government response to the problem.
According to the Times, he was charged with cyberstalking the head of state security for Kaduna state, which critics say is a charge used by the Nigerian government to silence the media.