Nigeria (MNN) -- This weekend's Boko Haram attack is worth noting for several reasons.
(Screenshot WSVN 7 News via Twitter)
While its brutality and severity rank high on the list of concerns, the attack is putting Christians and other religious minorities "on alert" as well.
"Nigerian media are saying it's the worst Boko Haram attack since 2013," shares Voice of the Martyrs USA
spokesman Todd Nettleton.
Boko Haram devastates Dalori
On Saturday evening
, Boko Haram showed no mercy as it firebombed Dalori village and two nearby refugee camps housing thousands of displaced people. Details are still coming in, but Nettleton says what they DO know so far is very troubling.
"At least some of the attackers were wearing Nigerian military uniforms, which they used to lure victims…. [Attackers said] 'Hey, come follow us; you'll be safe over here.' Then, [they began] opening fire on those victims."
(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
One survivor told the Associated Press he heard the screams of children as they burned to death. Hospital officials told the AP over 60 survivors of the Boko Haram attack were being treated for burns in Maiduguri's State Specialist Hospital.
Female suicide bombers from Boko Haram joined those who fled Dalori, Nettleton adds.
"Once they got to a military check-point, then [the bombers] blew themselves up, injuring some of the soldiers [and] some of their fellow [escapees]."
At deadline, the death toll from this Boko Haram attack numbered 86, but that could rise as more information becomes available.
Who is Boko Haram?
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sin," is a Muslim extremist group that has ravaged Nigeria since 2009, killing an estimated 20,000 people and driving another 2.5 million from their homes.
In April 2015
, Boko Haram joined forces with ISIS and began calling themselves ISWAP, or the Islamic State's West African Province.
They specifically target Christians, as well as other religious minorities, in their quest to take over Nigeria and its neighboring nations. In 2014, the terrorists declared a caliphate
in northern Nigeria.
It remains unknown if Christians fell victim in the Dalori Boko Haram attack, but the likelihood is fairly low. Dalori is located in a region primarily populated by Muslims; Boko Haram's "birthplace" is located approximately three miles away in Maiduguri.
"Christians and Muslims look at this attack and say, 'We're not safe here,'" shares Nettleton.
VOM USA helps believers in Nigeria stand firm amid severe persecution. Learn about their work in Nigeria here.
VOM's prosthetic clinic in Nigeria.
(Photo courtesy VOM Nigeria)
Through VOM Medical
, Nettleton says they're "providing medical care for Christians who are injured in these types of attacks. One of the things we have in Nigeria is a prosthetics lab that provides artificial limbs for Christians who have lost limbs in attacks like the ones from Boko Haram."
Support VOM's multifaceted work in Nigeria here.
Helping Boko Haram attack victims
Medical care and counseling are necessary and important ways to help believers who fall victim to Boko Haram violence. Yet, "prayer is the first thing they ask of us,"
"As we sit down and talk to these Christians, and [ask]…'What can we do to help you?' The first thing they ask us is to pray for them."
(Graphic courtesy VOM)
Even in the midst of difficult circumstances, Nettleton says believers express a strong desire to serve the Lord and to make His name known--even if it means certain death.
Next month, you'll get to hear stories from persecuted Christians who have faced Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram head-on, and intercede on their behalf during an intensive night of prayer.
Keep an eye on the VOM page for more details in the weeks to come.