By Jude Owuamanam, Olusola Fabiyi and Ihuoma Chiedozie:
Also, about 75 houses were torched and many vehicles burnt by the marauders.
The renewed crisis, which has shattered the fragile peace on the Plateau, came barely a week after the Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, had told some senior police officers in Abuja that the Force had discovered a plot to attack some Plateau villages.
It also came about a fortnight after a series of similar attacks on some villages in Riyom Local Government Area of the state by some people suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.
Our correspondent gathered that a group of Fulani marauders overran Dogo Na Hauwa, Ratsat and Jeji communities between 2 am and 5 am on Sunday, killing and maiming people, mostly women and children.
The Fulani herdsmen were said to have descended on the villages from a hill in a commando like fashion and carried out what eyewitnesses described as “organised killings” of the villagers.
One of the survivors Dalyop Gyang, told journalists that the Fulani, who sneaked into the villages from different angles, positioned themselves at several entries into the villages while some of them entered the villages with machine guns, machetes and all sorts of weapons.
He said that while those inside the village killed people and set houses on fire, majority of the victims, including children, ran out of their respective houses only to be ambushed by the waiting Fulani men who had positioned themselves in strategic parts of the area.
Another survivor, Mr. Longyen Michael (aka Pappy), told our correspondent that he was sleeping in his house with his family when he heard sounds of gunshots. He said that as he was trying to fathom what was happening; his window was broken and a petrol bomb was thrown inside his room.
He said that as his house was burning, he managed to crawl to the kitchen, fetched some water to put off the raging inferno.
Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Greg Yenlong, described the carnage as genocide. Yenlong, who was short of words appeared bewildered as the victims told their stories.
Speaking with journalists in Dogo Na Hauwa village, the Chairman of Jos South Local Government, Mr. Moses Dalyop, said the unfortunate incident was a terrible blow to the council and the entire state.
He said information at his disposal revealed that the Fulani had gained access into the affected villages from the neighbouring Jos East and Barakin Ladi Local Government areas of the state.
Our correspondent, who visited the affected villages, observed that they were like battlefields as corpses littered the affected areas.
Men and women wailed uncontrollably as the bodies of close to 50 children between the ages of two and 10 were lined up for a mass burial.
The corpses of about 80 victims and other wounded persons were taken to the Plateau State Specialist Hospital and Jos University Teaching Hospital while a bulldozer was mobilised to carry out a mass burial of other victims.
The police have, however, said they were on top of the crisis.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Yemi Ajayi, who disclosed this to our correspondent, also added that the police authorities had deployed more men in the troubled area.
Ajayi said that the crisis was not in Jos township but a community close to the state capital.
He called on the residents of the area to be law-abiding and desist from fomenting further trouble.
He said, “Yes, we are on top of the situation and I can tell you that we have deployed more policemen to the area.
“We want to use this opportunity to appeal to the people of the area to be law-abiding and also report anyone with suspicious movement to the police or any other security agencies.”
Meanwhile, a body that identified itself as Christian Elders of Plateau has condemned the latest killings in the state.
The group said this in a statement signed by its National Coordinator and Secretary General, Bishop Andersen Bok and Dr. Musa Pam respectively and made available to journalists on Sunday.
It said, “We, the Christian Elders of Plateau state strongly condemn the attack on Plateau State Christians by the Hausa-Fulani Muslim militants in the early hours of this morning in Dogo Nahawa community in Jos, resulting in the killing of over 500 persons. Their dead bodies are still lying in their own pool of blood as we speak.
“The attack, yet another jihad and provocation of the Christians, started at about 1.30am last night. We are in touch with the survivors, though many of them are still in trauma.
“Dogo Nahawa is a Christian community. The eyewitnesses said the Hausa-Fulani Muslim militants came chanting ‘Allahu akbar’ and broke into homes, cutting human beings, including children and women, with their knives and cutlasses.
“Since the last religious crisis when the Federal Government mandated the Nigerian Army to take over the security of the state, we have never failed to show our fears and worries because of the role the military played in previous crisis.
“Shortly after the militants besieged Dogo Nahawa this morning, we contacted the soldiers at exactly 1.30am since they are in charge of the security of the state. But we were shocked to find out that the soldiers did not react until about 3.30am after the Muslim attackers had finished their job and left.
“We want the soldiers to again explain the reason for this deliberate delay which we consider part of the ploy. We want to state here that we no longer have any confidence in the Nigerian Army to secure Plateau State because of their bias against Christians.
“We are also worried because the Hausa-Fulani Muslim militants, this time, descended on Governor Jonah Jang’s Berom community, about 15 kilometres from his family residence. We are tired of these genocides on our Christian brothers and state here that we will not let this go unchallenged.”
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Information of the Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, he referred him to the Head of the Information Unit in Jos, Lt. Galadinma Skekari, who denied the allegation.
He said that the claim that the military had ignored calls alerting them to impending attacks was not true.
He said that it was unrealistic for anybody to make such an assumption as the lines and cards used for the alleged mobile telephone calls were not inscribed with religion.
He said, “For goodness sake, is religion inscribed on the card that you buy and use for calls? How would somebody make such an assumption? Religion is not inscribed in these cards. The networks do not identify religion. Why do we make this type of assumption? Look my friend, these claims are simply baseless and unfounded.”
Also, the spokesman of a major Fulani herdsmen group in the state, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Mallam Sale Bayeri, said that it was too early to jump into conclusions about who the attackers were.
He told our correspondent in a telephone interview that when about 215 Fulani were killed in Barakin Ladi and Kuru Jantar, his people did not accuse anybody, adding that it was possible that those whose relations were killed might have decided to take revenge.
Bayeri added that the incident showed that there was a total breakdown of law and order in the state.
However, the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on Sunday directed security agencies in the country to be on the alert and undertake “strategic initiatives to confront and defeat” roving bands of killers believed to be responsible for the renewed violence in the Jos.
Jonathan had already been briefed on the development by Onovo, a statement from the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, said.
The statement further disclosed that Jonathan had summoned the heads of the country’s security agencies to a meeting over the development.
In the same vein, Jonathan commiserated with all those who lost dear ones and property in the latest episode of the Jos crisis.
He urged them, as well as all residents of the city, to be law-abiding and to refrain from acts of vengeance, as “violence only begets further violence.”
The statement reads, “The country arose this morning to news of renewed crisis in Plateau State.
“Reports reaching us indicate that marauding bands launched a flurry of attacks on certain communities in the state, causing considerable death and injury.
“While it is too early to state categorically what is responsible for this renewed wave of violence, we want to inform Nigerians that the security services are on top of the situation.
“This afternoon, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, briefed the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on the situation in Plateau.
“Jonathan is also billed to meet with the leadership of the country’s security services on urgent strategies to rein in the violence.
“In the meantime, the Acting President has placed all the security services in Plateau and neighboring states on red alert so as to stem any cross border dimensions to this latest conflict.
“He has also directed that the security services undertake strategic initiatives to confront and defeat these roving bands of killers.”
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