Source: Daily Mail online
Just over a week after Baroness Cox spoke passionately about the state of the nation and her work to protect Muslim women at an Emmaus Group conference, she was in Nigeria and the likely target for Islamic gunmen
Baroness Cox, the Christian campaigner for religious freedom, has told of her relief after she narrowly escaped an ambush by Islamist gunmen during a humanitarian visit to a Nigeria.
Baroness Caroline Cox, 79, was visiting survivors in the war-ravaged village of Jong when her group heard of a probable attack.
Minutes later, Islamic Fulani gunmen blocked the only route out of the village, in central Nigeria, and opened fire on civilians with AK47s.
A young wedding party and other villagers were caught up in the raid and it is not known how many were injured.
It comes after hundreds of armed militants chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ stormed the village in May, slaughtering 20 people including a village leader and Christian pastor.
Speaking following her safe return to the UK on Wednesday, Baroness Cox said she had no doubt that the Fulani would have ‘delighted’ in killing her.
She is certain that she and her delegation of eight, which included US Bishop Stuart Ruch III, and Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust CEO Corinna Loges, were the target.
Baroness Cox said: ‘We were in Jong in the afternoon. We spoke to the people and heard their story and took some photos as evidence of the destruction.
‘Then our guide, our host, said, ‘You must go.’ He just sensed that it was the time to go. Local people could sense we had been there for long enough.
‘The kids who were herding the cattle might have gone back and told the Fulani adults who were around the corner that we were there.
‘We left fairly quickly.
‘Then one of the people we met in the village phoned to check we were OK. He said the Fulani came in an ambush and they did quite a bit of shooting.
‘My first concern was, ‘I hope the other people were all right.’
Guide Hassan John, who led the group around five villages on Monday, said they left Jong as it was getting dark at 6pm local time.
He said: ‘We had just driven out of a valley when, as an eye witness described later, gunmen emerged from the hills and were shooting at the vehicles that passed the road.
‘They must have thought it was our vehicle because they were mostly headlights of the cars shot at.
‘Those, unfortunately were people returning from a wedding to the village.
‘We knew we were the target because while we were out in the village, we saw the cattle herders, young children run off in a direction.
‘Sensing the danger, we also left the village. The pastor in the community could not say exactly how many vehicle or people attacked.
‘People ran away and because there is no hospital close by we are unable to ascertain how many are injured but he assured us no one was killed, as much as he knew.’
He said the guns were automatic rifles – AK47s according to locals.
Baroness Cox added that the attempted attack on her delegation happened o Monday 14 November after Fulani children herding cattle nearby reported their presence to militants.
She said: ‘Their standard process is they come in black and shout Allahu Akbar. This ambush was probably a response to the fact there were visitors there.
‘It wasn’t like the planned attack in May. The kids would have come back and said, ‘There are foreigners here’.’
‘We were definitely the target of the ambush. The only way to get out would have been along the road, where they were.
‘If we were still there, we might have well been hit. They were out to do that.
‘We got out but I was terrified that some of the lovely people we were talking to might have been killed or injured.
‘I think they would have been delighted to kill us if we had been there.
‘It would have had a deterrent to other people visiting and it would have stopped us visiting.’
Baroness Cox is a religious freedom campaigner and cross-bench member of the British House of Lords.
Much like Boko Haram, whose barbarism is widely known, Islamic Fulani militants are known to have killed many people including women and children.
They also systematically force vulnerable rural communities to abandon their homes and grab their land, leave children orphaned and destroy houses and churches.
The delegation spoke to numerous individuals who had survived the horrors of the Fulani militants on their annual visit to Nigeria.
They visited four villages – Jong, zim, Lo Biring and Ropp.
Baroness Cox said: ‘I felt enormous sadness speaking to the victims of the violence themselves.
‘There is the really serious issue of land-grabbing, when people are driven off their land by the violence, the Fulani move in and they can’t go back.
‘It is a very serious situation, of what seems to be systematic displacement.
‘Jong is devastated. It is ruined. People and children – the ones who can’t flee – are killed.
‘The buildings are literally smashed to pieces so there is nothing to go back to.’