A mob beat gay men with sticks spiked with nails, tried to burn down their homes and forced them to flee their village in Nigeria.
The attacks in the previously peaceful community of Gishiri, in the capital city of Abuja, come after a month of growing tension between LGBTI people and other villagers.
An LGBTI community leader has come to GSN to describe how a gang smashed in the doors to their shared homes, dragged gay men in the street and even beat one man in front of the police station while officers looked on.
The gang was initially looking for one gay man, believed to be aged between 19 and 21 years old, but ended up targeting others, hunting them in house-to-house raids.
Now a senior police officer in the region has given the LGBTI population of the village 48 hours to flee.
It all comes after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill in January, some of the world’s most draconian anti-gay legislation.
Our source told us Gishiri had previously been a popular place for LGBTI people to live – a peaceful community where LGBTI people generally lived openly and harmoniously alongside straights, even drinking together and attending the same parties.
But on 17 January, the local LGBTI leader, who we are not naming for his own protection, was warned by a friend of a threat to gay people in the village.
He told us: ‘I was told the State Security Service were going to raid the village and arrest people, check their phones, check their houses so they have evidence they are gays.’
As a result, he advised the LGBTI population to flee. But when the security service didn’t act, they returned home.
However, they found the atmosphere changed, with other villagers shunning them and refusing to acknowledge them in public.
Then on Tuesday (11 February), he says he heard about a new threat. Possibly sparked by the brother of the young gay man in his late teens or early 20s, the villagers were saying they would take action against the local LGBTI community.
A particular target was the Girls Hostel, where the young man was said to be living.
The house, and the building next to it, was lived in by a number of gay people, staying both long and short-term.
Our contact was at the house, discussing the problem, when the mob arrived at midnight.
They knocked loudly on the door, and when those inside refused to answer, they smashed down the wooden outer door, he told us.
They couldn’t penetrate the steel inner door, however, but knocked a small hole in the clay wall to look in.
The attackers then dispersed and the people inside the house fled to seek shelter with friends, including ‘straight allies’.
But the gay residents returned to the properties yesterday (12 February), our source says.
The gangs gathered again and one gay man, returning from work, was set upon in the street.
The mob forced him to the ground, kicked him and beat him with sticks studded with nails. He sustained serious injuries to his legs, body, arms and head.
Friends spilled out from the shared gay house to save him and were also attacked.
The LGBTI community then gathered to discuss whether they would hand over the young man the mob wanted.
Our source was against him being given to them. But the youth said he would agree to be delivered to the villagers to bring peace to his friends, provided they would only beat him, not kill him.
He was handed over but his begging made the mob agree to leave him alone, and he fled to safety.
However, the attacks began again later last night, with villagers going house-to-house, bashing in doors and dragging out suspected gay residents and attacking them.
The youth was found and beaten and dragged off to the police station who arrested him, apparently for his own protection.
The man who had been beaten earlier was also targeted again. He ran to the police station but the gang caught him outside and attacked.
Our contact told us: ‘They allowed the beating to last for a while outside the police station. The police then stopped it but there was no caution, no arrests.’
Another source in the village reports 12 people were attacked and indicates the mob was about 40 people strong.
It is believed four gay men were taken into custody and eventually moved to Mabushi district police station where they were interrogated about their sexuality in a derogatory way.
However a senior officer there intervened, reportedly telling the Gishiri police they should have intervened earlier for the men’s safety.
The same officer gave the LGBTI people 48 hours to leave Gishiri for their own safety, providing them with an emergency number in the mean time.
The GSN source reports: ‘While that was happening, the villagers were going to houses painting “homosexuals must leave” on the walls.’
They also poured kerosene on the gay people’s houses and were only stopped from lighting it by the intervention of two women.
Our contact suggests the gang had wished to burn down the properties to disguise the fact they had stolen a sewing machine, plasma TV, phones and possibly other things from them.
He added: ‘I am probably in danger but not in the way they [the other gay men] are. It is wrong. If someone has offended the law, you don’t take the law into your hands. You can not do jungle justice.’
Nigerian LGBTI activist Bisi Alimi told GSN: ‘The increasing attacks and witch-hunting of LGBTI people in Nigeria is now proving the silence of the international community is not golden anymore.
‘Nigerian LGBTI people are now living in constant fear for their lives, properties and loved ones.
‘The attack in Abuja among others is a direct effect of the state’s deliberate action to criminalize a very helpless and vulnerable population.
‘We are calling on the United Nations, United States, the British Government, EU, Commonwealth and the Africa Union to take a stand in the defense of vulnerable LGBTI people in Nigeria.’