From George Oji and Seriki Adinoyi:
• 200 killed in suspected reprisal •Jonathan puts military on red alert
Over 200 people, mostly women and children, were murdered in the early hours of yesterday following attacks on Dogo-Na-Hawa, Ratsat and Jeji villages in Foron district, Jos South Local Government Area, Plateau State.
The attacks were visited on the Berom villages by men suspected to be Hausa-Fulani fighters who had descended from the hills from where they launched into the villages at about 2am.
Going by the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the aftermath of the January riots in which over 350 died, there was supposed to be military presence in the area at that time.
Some of the fighters were said to have positioned themselves at strategic entrances to the villages, while others went in and began to set houses on fire. Those who made to escape were butchered while others were shot.
Mr. Dalyop Gyang, who escaped the carnage, said: “We were caught unawares. We were alarmed by gun shots at about 2 am, and as we tried to escape, the Fulani who were already waiting slaughtered many of us.”
Commissioner for Information, Mr. Greg Yenlong, who was also at the scene of the incident, told journalists that the casualty figure could not be ascertained because more bodies were still being brought out from the burnt houses. He described the incident as “unfortunate”.
Our reporter counted over 180 bodies at the scene. At the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, 18 other bodies were also deposited at the mortuary.
The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the hospital, Dr. Pam Dantong, who took the journalists to the mortuary, said he learnt that more bodies had been deposited at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH).
The Gbong Gwom Jos, Buba Gyang, who was also at the scene, described it as “man’s inhumanity to man”. He however pacified the irate youths who expressed disappointment with the security agents that could not protect them in spite of the dusk-to-down curfew.
“We shall no longer observe the curfew because we have lost confidence in the security agents,” one of them lamented.
The Chairman of Jos South Local Government, Hon. Moses Dalyop, said the unfortunate incident was a terrible blow to the council and the entire state, at a time the state was already recovering from the shock of the January crisis.
The Chairman said the information at his disposal revealed that the Fulanis gained access into the villages from the neighbouring Jos East and Barakin Ladi Local government areas of the state. Dalyop said the cause of that attack was yet to be ascertained but said that investigation had commenced.
The Counselor of Zabot ward under which the villages fall, Mr. Ayuba Dung Hywere, who shed tears at the mortuary, told THISDAY that he got a distress call at about 2.30am.
“Immediately I called my Chairman, being the chief security officer of the local government. We quickly contacted the Permanent Secretary. The chairman asked me to wait, that security agents would come and meet me so that I could direct them to the scene, but till 5 am I didn’t see any security person. At about 5.30am I left Foron, where I live, to go to the villages. On getting to Rwat, I met some soldiers with two armoured tanks, and I told them that the killing was not there but in Dogon-Na-Hawa, but they said they were not sent to Dogon-Na-Hawa, and that moreover their armoured tanks had no fuel and they were over-heating. It was obvious that they were not willing to go with me. So I left them and got to the villages. Later on they arrived with the same armoured tank, but then the Fulanis had escaped,” he said.
It was an uncontrolled wailing and weeping, as the entire villages were littered with corpses. No fewer than 70 houses were burnt and many vehicles set ablaze.
Many of the villagers have described the attack as reprisal. They said it could be an aftermath of the attack on the Fulanis in Kuru in which several lives were lost and corpses dumped in the wells.
When contacted on phone, the Police Public Relations Office Moha-mmed Lerama, said the police were aware of the incident and cut off the call.
However, some soldiers have been drafted to the area on the others of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
He expressed shock at the renewed violence and ordered all the security services in Plateau and neighbouring states to be on red alert to stem any cross border dimensions to the latest conflict.
Speaking through his spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, the Acting President also called on all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law abiding, since according to him, violence only begets further violence.
The five-paragraph statement read, “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. Ogbonnaya (Ogbonna) Onovo, briefed the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on the situation in Plateau. Dr. 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 neighbouring 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.
“He calls on all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law abiding, since violence only begets further violence. He also sympathises with those who have lost relatives and friends in these attacks, asking the Almighty to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.”
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