ABUJA, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) – Eleven Nigerian men are being heralded as martyrs after Islamic militants took them hostage and killed them.
Video of the men’s murder was posted online Dec. 26. Lined up and blindfolded, one man was shot and killed while the other 10 were beheaded.
The 11 men were taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in November, according to the Associated Press.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, called the 11 victims “martyrs” and accusing the killers of being “mad Islamists.”
“In Nigeria, the murder of eleven Christians by mad Islamists is a reminder of how many of my African brothers in Christ live faith at the risk of their own lives,” he tweeted. “These baptized are martyrs. They have not betrayed the gospel. Let us pray fervently for them.”
Experts suspect Amaq, ISIS’ news agency, timed the video’s release to coincide with the celebration of Christmas, according to the BBC.
A masked man in the video claimed the killings were retaliation for the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself in October during a raid in Syria by U.S. Special Forces.
In a previous video message, the hostages pleaded with the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian government to negotiate for their freedom.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari slammed the terrorists who killed the 11 men, calling them “remorseless, godless, callous gangs of mass-murderers that have given Islam a bad name through their atrocities.” He also called them “psychopaths” and “barbaric killers.”