In Plateau Army denies helping Fulani herdsmen kill 29 people

The army said the attackers were able to gain an upper hand because they were greater in number than expected.

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Kidnapping for ransom has long been a risk in Nigeria's south, where high-profile individuals and their families are a frequent target for criminal gangs play The army failed to prevent the massacre of 29 people despite their presence at the scene of the attack (AFP/File)
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The Nigerian Army has strongly denied accusations of aiding suspected Fulani herdsmen that killed 29 people in the Monday attack on the Nkiedonwhro community in Irigwe, Plateau State.

According to a report by The Punch, the spokesperson of Operation Safe Haven, Captain Umar Adams, denied the allegations on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 in Jos, the state's capital.

He said that contrary to the stories making the rounds, the attackers were able to gain an upper hand on the soldiers present at the scene because they were greater in number than expected.

He said, "During the killings, there was gunshot exchange between our troops and the attackers. The attackers came en masse and they were shooting sporadically and the people in the village started running towards one of the bases where our men were deployed. That was when our men offered them safety in the classroom.

"But as those attackers were still advancing, our men had to repel them by engaging them in gunshots. But because it was dark and they were many in number, our men didn't know that there were others who came from another direction.

"While our people were attacking those ones, others came from a different route and fired the people in the classroom. But to our greatest disappointment, people are pushing the blame on us."

 

This denial follows allegations made by the President of Rigwe Development Association, Sunday Abdu, who said an eyewitness account confirms that soldiers actively contributed to the success of the horrible attack which he calls an 'execution'.

According to him, "The soldiers masterminded the killing; that was what happened. The people were at home when they heard gunshots. Some of them were assured by the soldiers of safety. Then, one of the soldiers told the ward head to follow them for protection. And he obliged, believing that the soldiers would give them safety.

"As this was going on, some young men, women and children were gathered in the classroom of a primary school. One of the young men refused to enter the classroom, insisting on staying with the soldiers. The person saw everything that happened.

"He saw some people in the bush giving signs with their hands to the soldiers. It was between 6:30 and 7:00 pm; he saw the hand as if it was calling some people. The boy told the soldiers, 'See oo, there is somebody in the bush giving signals with his hands and he is a Fulani person.'

"‘He said that immediately after that, there was a gunshot and the soldiers advised residents to remain in the classroom while they (the soldiers) went for the attackers. He alleged that one of the soldiers signalled the assailants to attack.

 "That was how the execution was carried out."

The conflict reportedly started after a local boy in the Rigwe community was found dead, and suspicion fell on the Fulani people in the area.

When some women in the community attempted vengeance, the Army stopped their demonstration to the annoyance of the locals.

Capt. Adams said, "About two days earlier, there was tension the day some women in Rigwe community demonstrated because a boy was discovered dead.

"Out of their anger, they suspected that the Fulani people were responsible and decided to take a revenge on them.

"Our people intercepted them because our mandate is not to promote violence but to ensure that people live in peace. They wondered why soldiers stopped them from unleashing their anger on the suspects.

"When our boys were intercepting the ones trying to cause trouble, some of them moved out to scatter our checkpoints."

Monday's attack was the fifth in three weeks, coming  after another six people were killed in a Saturday night attack on Taagbe in Bassa Local Government Area.

The killings took place a day after Gov. Simon Lalong imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the local government area following reports of the burning of houses by unknown men that invaded some villages on Friday.

Two other violent invasions claimed 28 lives in Ncha and Jebu-Miango semi-urban settlements.

ALSO READ: Buhari is angry at attacks by suspected herdsmen in Plateau

President Muhammadu Buhari has already expressed anger, sadness and regret over news of the 'madness' that has 'gone too far', and he also instructed the military and the police to bring the violence to an instant end.

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