About 120 persons were weekend killed in several villages in Barkin Ladi, Mangu and Riyom local government areas of Plateau State in fresh attacks by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, while over 200 others sustained gunshot injuries.
|One of the houses set ablaze by the Fulani herdsmen|
However, Commander of the Special Military Task Force, Major General Anthony Atolagbe, last night confirmed that 56 persons were killed.
Major-General Atolagbe, who spoke from the bush where he was directing operations to apprehend the perpetrators, also said three of the killers had been arrested, adding that they confessed to participating in the killing.
A house burnt at Gashish, one of the villages attacked.
“The suspected killers have been giving useful information about others involved in the killings and their hideouts. We are going all out for them. Also, troops have been deployed to ensure normalcy is restored,” he said.
The scale of destruction in Plateau, which also led to burning of houses, compelled the state government to declare a dawn-to-dusk curfew in the affected local government areas to stave off further killings.
But Plateau State Police Command said at press time last night it had counted 86 bodies, asserting that it could not ascertain the actual number of casualties since some families took away bodies of their loved ones without notification.
NigerianEye learnt that heavily armed gunmen invaded the affected villages, including Exland, Gindin Akwati, Ruku, Nghar, Kura Falls and Kakuruk, all in Gashish district as well as Rakok, Kok and Razat villages in Ropp district of the local government area, shooting sporadically, killing people, injuring others and setting structures ablaze.
The latest attacks sparked off protests by the youths who barricaded roads along Mangu Halle in Mangu Local Government Area, protesting incessant killings in the area.
An eye-witness, Masara Kim, who narrowly escaped being killed in an ambush while returning from a funeral service near Kura Falls, explained:
“The attack occurred a few metres away from a military checkpoint in Kafi Abu village. The attackers opened fire on the convoy of sympathizers and bullets hit a vehicle which I was travelling in, injuring one person. “At least four other travellers were critically wounded in different other vehicles.
In one vehicle, the driver and another woman were shot in their legs. Another driver carrying over five passengers was shot in the arm, resulting in the car crashing. “All on board fled into the bushes amid heavy gunfire.
The attackers by their looks, were herdsmen.”
The pastor in charge of Church of Christ In Nations, COCIN, Regional Church Council, RCC, Rop in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Pam Chollom, said majority of those killed in the attack that lasted several hours were mourners.
“Herdsmen attacked our members who attended the burial of the father to one of our clergy, Baba Jakawa, at Gidin Akwati, Gashis district. Late Jakawa was aged over 80 years, a committed member of COCIN, so his burial attracted many sympathisers.
“The armed men ambushed the sympathisers on their way back from the burial, attacked and killed 34 persons from Nekan village, 39 others from Kufang, and 47 people from Ruku village.
As we speak with you, many others are still missing in the bushes. “The sad incident started at about 1:00 p.m., and lasted still about 8:00 p.m. yesterday (Saturday). “We informed members of the Special Task Force (STF) on Jos crisis.
They went to one of the villages, but the attackers had committed the havoc and left.”
Spokesman of Operation Safe Haven, Major Adam Umar, said soldiers were immediately deployed to the affected villages, following sporadic gunshots which drew the military’s attention.
“There was an incident yesterday (Saturday) in Barkin Ladi, some attackers stormed the general area and started shooting sporadically. “The sound of the gunshots attracted our personnel, they immediately mobilized towards the area the gunshots were coming from. On reaching there, they came under heavy fire. The incident is still ongoing though under control. “There are casualties because there were gunshots and fire-fight between our personnel and the attackers but for now, the number is not ascertained.”
It was learned yesterday that many people were still trapped in the bushes, as sporadic shooting continued yesterday. Those evacuated were said to have been taken to Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH, for treatment.
Acting Public Relations Officer of the hospital, Mr. Haruna Manzo, who confirmed this to newsmen yesterday, said: “On Saturday, five people were brought with gunshots wounds, one was treated and discharged and four are on admission. “On Sunday, 21 new casualties were brought and the total we received was 26, we don’t have any dead body here.”
However, Police Public Relations Officer in Plateau State command, ASP Mathias Tyopev, gave some figures, saying “we have recovered 11 corpses so far and deposited in a hospital.
“We can only account for 11 from Exland, Kura Falls, Gindin Akwati and some other villages. We are not working on speculations but on numbers we have but if somebody died and the relatives did not report to the Police, there is no way we can know. We have deployed enough personnel in Gashish district as we speak.”
The attacks forced the state governor, Simon Lalong, to immediately return home from Abuja where he participated in the national convention of the All Progressives Congress, APC, which held at the weekend.
The governor, who condemned the attack, directed security chiefs to checkmate the assailants and appealed for calm, saying “government has fashioned out a lasting solution to the present challenge.”
Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Jos South LGs affected The state government immediately imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South local government areas, saying the move was to avert a breakdown of law and order.
The government in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Rufus Bature, said: “Movement is restricted from 6pm to 6am, except for those on essential duties.”