The military has denied the allegation of complicity in the reported killing of 29 persons, including women and children, in the Nkiedonwhro community of Plateau State. Rather, it said it was overwhelmed by the numerical strength and tactics of the attackers.
The spokesperson of Operation Safe Haven, Capt. Umar Adams, made the denial in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Wednesday.
The President of Rigwe Development Association, Sunday Abdu, had accused soldiers deployed in the area of complicity, saying, “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,” he said.
But Adams disagreed with Abdu, insisting that the attackers were too many for them to curtail.
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.”
Adams claimed that the Fulani herdsmen wounded by the troops were assisted to escape by their colleagues after the exchange of gunfire.
“When the attackers were firing at our people, our men were also firing back. Our people were able to shoot some of them; but because of their number, they were moving those who were wounded by our gunshots,” he said.
Adams also claimed that the base of OPSH in the area was destroyed because the soldiers tried to stop the protesting women from attacking the Fulani after the killing of a young man.
He 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.”
Source: The PUNCH