• 16 victims are buried en masse
Residents of the Yelwa Zangam community in the Jos North local government area in Plateau state are still in shock five days after more than 35 villagers were killed when gunmen attacked the community and put the fire at their homes.
“My heart is bleeding from this tragedy that has struck my people. We never expected something like this, ” said village chief Ajida Isa, whose 56-year-old woman Susan and six other family members were killed in the attack.
The attack on Tuesday evening was traumatic for the village chief, who lost his 16-year-old son, Ishaya; 38-year-old daughter-in-law, Monica; 13-year-old granddaughter, Salvation Ishaya; four-year-old granddaughter, Timura Ishaya; 17-year-old grandson Barnabas Hosea and another nine-year-old grandson Ephraim Hosea to gunmen attacking the community.
It was learned that that day the village chief had retired to his house and was about to sleep when he heard sporadic gunshots outside.
Sunday PUNCH found that there was unrest in the community and villagers who did not know what was going on rushed to his home to protect themselves. Within minutes, armed men stormed his palace and shot down the occupants and set his house on fire.
During an interview with our correspondent, Isa broke down in tears and could not remember how he had escaped the attack of the armed men. He said, “Please I can’t go on. My heart is heavy. ” He called his assistant, Haruna Adamu, to tell our correspondent what happened on the day of the attack.
Adamu, who also escaped the attack, said: “They burned many people in the village, except those they killed with guns. Those they burned were 17 and those killed by gunshots were around 20. We took some of the wounded to the hospital and they died there. Some of the victims are still hospitalized. The village chief narrowly escaped. But his wife, son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and a brother-in-law, who is a retired soldier, were killed by the attackers. ”
He accused their Hausa / Fulani neighbors of being responsible for the attack, saying they wanted them to give up their land.
He said: “We have realized that the genesis of this attack on our people is linked to the problem of cemeteries in our community. We thought the problem was solved. But with the attack, we were wrong. The cemetery is our heritage. When the Hausa community first came to our land, they started using the place for the burial of their people and no one stopped them. At one point the owner of the land decided to sell it and when he approached the Hausa community they said they would not buy pretending no one owns the land.
“The owners of the land on which the cemetery was located were in dire need and they decided to look for buyers. It was then that the indigenous community decided to buy the place and everyone was aware of the transaction which the Hausa community also witnessed. They later turned to claim ownership of the land insisting that it was their own inheritance. ”
Adamu said the gunmen left with the phones of some of the residents during the attack. He expressed fear that the gunmen would return to the community to attack people, saying they sent threatening messages to survivors after the attack. He called on the government to investigate the new threat to the population to stop further attacks on the community
But the leader of the Hausa community of Yelwa Zangam, Alhaji Umaru, has denied any involvement of his people in the attacks and killings.
Umaru, who spoke through his deputy, Danladi Yelwa, confirmed that the issue of the cemetery was a source of conflict between the two communities, adding that the matter had been taken up by the Authority of local government for an amicable resolution.
He said: “What has happened is that the cemetery has been used by our people for over 300 years. Recently, the indigenous Anaguta claimed ownership of the cemetery and we have started discussions with them.
Wherever there is a cemetery, it is not good in Islam for a road to pass through the place and this has caused some of our young people to block the road. But the Anaguta people have reopened the road and this has become a source of conflict between the two sides.
Fortunately, the case was taken over by the district chief and he said we should settle. Subsequently, the supreme ruler called the two parties and had a discussion with them during which an elder Anaguta suggested that the cemetery issue was not about a man or a tribe but the responsibility of the local government to step in and settle. The council chairman ordered the opening of an ancient road and asked people not to follow the contested road and urged everyone to live in peace. cemetery issue ended and we lived in peace with each other until the recent attack on the community.
“We don’t know what happened and we don’t know where the attackers came from. The claim that we are behind the attacks in the community is false. About 10 of our members, including the community’s chief imam, Alhaji Umaru, were arrested in connection with the attack even though they had no weapons on them. We want our people to be released because they don’t know anything about the incident. ”
Meanwhile, the remains of other victims of the attack were buried en masse on Saturday. A young community leader, Yakubu Bagudu, said Sunday PUNCH that the corpses were buried in the community after being transported from Jos University Hospital on Saturday.
Bagudu, who also lost his son, his brother, his house and his car in the attack, said: “We have just buried around 20 of the victims who are mainly those shot by the gunmen. We have already buried 17 people who were unrecognizable to burns in the attack. ”
Plateau Baptist Conference President Dr.K Saleh, who led the funeral service, consoled the people for the calamity that had befallen the community
He urged them not to take revenge for the murders, adding that “vengeance belongs to God”.
On another note, the chairman of the local government of Lantang North, Joshua Ubandoma, shouted at the alleged invasion of terrorists from the council area to attack his people.
The council chairman who sounded the alarm bells by addressing reporters in Jos on Friday pleaded with the government and security officials to do everything possible to stop the planned attack on his people.
He said the terrorists were spotted on Thursday as they entered Tarok territory via the Wase and Kardako axis in the southern part of the state.
He said he reported the case to the commander of the field operations base at Langtang North, including the state police commissioner who he said confirmed receiving intelligence reports about the influx of terrorists in the two areas of the council.
Ubandoma said: “At around 4 pm Thursday we had an influx of terrorists. They were seen around the southern area of the Wase Axis coming to attack the Tarok Nation in the Langtang North and Lantang South LGAs. ”
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