Soldiers kill 32 in herders’ vil­lages

This is geno­cide – Miyetti Al­lah DHQ says not aware of raid

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - Vol. 34 No. 45 N150 From Hir Joseph, Lafia & Ron­ald Mu­tum, Abuja

Truck-loads of soldiers con­ducted a morn­ing raid on set­tle­ments of Fu­lani herders in Nasarawa State yes­ter­day, killing at least 32 people.

The oper­a­tion, which hap­pened at about 8.30am in the out­skirts of Keana, was said to be car­ried out by troops who came in 10 trucks and four ar­moured-per­son­nel car­ri­ers.

Five of the people killed in the oper­a­tion were el­derly men at a set­tle­ment called Ru­gan Abubakar So­dangi, along Keana-Giza road.

Daily Trust learnt that the soldiers ar­rived in Keana in the morn­ing and pa­trolled the town for about two hours be­fore pro­ceed­ing to Ru­gan Ardo

Five of the people killed were el­derly men at a set­tle­ment called Ru­gan Abubakar So­dangi

Abubakar So­dangi.

They raided that and neigh­bour­ing Fu­lani set­tle­ments, killing many people, wit­nesses told Daily Trust.

“Min­utes later, we started hear­ing gun­shots. The gun­shots were sus­tained for min­utes. Then we saw the soldiers drive back into Keana,” a res­i­dent of Keana told Daily Trust.

A wit­ness, Ibrahim Jalo, said about 24 corpses were evac­u­ated from the Fu­lani set­tle­ments on the road to Giza town.

“I was on my way to the of­fice when I saw people run­ning and later saw soldiers rush­ing into the town in con­voy ask­ing for the Fu­lani. I saw over 24 dead bod­ies of Fu­lani be­ing taken to Lafia in a white Hilux van,” he said, quoted by Pre­mium Times.

The Miyetti Al­lah Cat­tle Breed­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria (MACBAN) de­cried the mil­i­tary raid, say­ing it amounted to geno­cide against the Fu­lani.

Mo­hammed Hus­sein, state sec­re­tary of the as­so­ci­a­tion, told Daily Trust that the lead­er­ship of Fu­lani in the state re­solved to sue the Federal Govern­ment over the mil­i­tary oper­a­tion, which he called “geno­cide on Fu­lani in Nasarawa.”

He said, “They stormed the Fu­lani camps and opened fire on the men. They held the women, four of whom they broke their hands. We have re­solved to sue the Federal Govern­ment over this geno­cide on our people.”

Hus­sein ear­lier told Pre­mium Times: “I’m presently in the mor­tu­ary re­ceiv­ing corpses. They killed over 30 of our men for no rea­son.”

Daily Trust re­ports that the mor­tu­ary at the Dal­hatu Araf Spe­cial­ists Hospi­tal in Lafia ap­peared to have been filled up, as many dead bod­ies from the in­ci­dent were left out­side.

Twelve bod­ies were brought there in po­lice vans, be­tween 12 and 3pm, while 20 other bod­ies were de­posited at the Gen­eral Hospi­tal in Keana some­time af­ter 5pm.

When con­tacted yes­ter­day on the deadly raid by soldiers in Nasarawa State, Di­rec­tor of De­fence In­for­ma­tion, Ma­jor Gen­eral Chris Oluko­lade, said in a text mes­sage to our re­porter: “No such re­ports have been lodged any­where. It will be in­ves­ti­gated to con­firm if those you said car­ried out the at­tack are soldiers in­deed.”

He added: “This is cer­tainly not the pur­pose of the oper­a­tion there. You have to be sure that the in­ci­dence is not one of the atroc­i­ties of armed gangs. This is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated please.”

The mil­i­tary oper­a­tion came a day af­ter Tiv com­mu­ni­ties and Fu­lani no­mads, who have had pro­longed hos­til­i­ties at the Nasarawa/Benue bor­der, signed a peace agree­ment in Lafia.

It also hap­pened just as the new­ly­elected Keana LGA chair­man, Haruna Osegba, sched­uled se­ries of meet­ings with Tiv and Fu­lani lead­ers to find so­lu­tions to the in­ces­sant cri­sis that has caused many deaths and dis­place­ment of thou­sands.

Mr. Osegba yes­ter­day con­firmed the pres­ence of the soldiers in large num­bers, and also con­firmed that Ru­gan Abubakar So­dangi and neigh­bour­ing set­tle­ments of no­mads were hit.

But he said his coun­cil had no more in­for­ma­tion to give, say­ing the soldiers never re­ported to the coun­cil or the palace of the para­mount ruler of Keana.

“They en­tered town, but did not re­port to the coun­cil. I don’t know their mis­sion. The palace also has no in­for­ma­tion about their com­ing,” Osegba said.

He said in­for­ma­tion avail­able to the coun­cil showed that nine bod­ies were taken to Lafia, while two oth­ers were still on their way.

Later last night, Osegba told Daily Trust that a to­tal of 15 corpses had been buried ac­cord­ing to Is­lamic rites.

State po­lice spokesman, ASP Umaru Is­maila, said “it is a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion”, and that the state po­lice com­mand was not well-in­formed about the oper­a­tion to make in­formed com­ments.

State In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner Hamza Elayo told Daily Trust the oper­a­tion was con­ducted by a Pres­i­den­tial task force which went to Keana for a “strictly mil­i­tary oper­a­tion.”

He said the state govern­ment was yet to get any of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion from the Federal Govern­ment on the oper­a­tion.

“For now, we as a state govern­ment can­not say much on the pres­ence of the mil­i­tary in the state. But we know of their pres­ence. We have no in­for­ma­tion about their op­er­a­tions in the state,” Elayo said.

It was not clear why the mil­i­tary oper­a­tion was em­barked upon, but Daily Trust re­ports that this came fol­low­ing years of vi­o­lent clashes be­tween Tiv and Fu­lani people along the bor­der with Benue State.

Dis­putes over farm­land and graz­ing land have led to vi­o­lent con­flicts be­tween the two an­ces­tral play­mates, leading to deaths and de­struc­tions of property.

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