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Tension in Kaduna as death toll hits 114

Kaduna State Governor Mukthar Yero

Tension rose in  Kaduna town and environs on Sunday, following the killing  of no fewer than 100 people in  three  villages in Kaduna State on Friday night.

There was a  heavy security presence at all churches in the state capital and environs where  the Christian faithful had converged to worship.

Our correspondent observed the movement of combat-ready policemen and other security agents in trucks at the Sabo Tasha and Refinery areas of the city to maintain law and order as people spread rumours that all was not well in those parts of the state capital.

The victims of the massacre were said to have been buried in mass graves on Sunday.

The umbrella body of the Southern Kaduna people in the state, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union,  on Sunday put the  death toll from the attacks at  114.

It said over 40 attacks had been recorded so far in the Southern Kaduna communities since 2011. The group also accused Fulani herdsmen as being behind the attacks.

Addressing newsmen on Sunday in Kaduna, the National President of  SOKAPU, Dr. Ephraim Goje,  noted that the people of the area had been under severe attacks from  Fulani herdsmen without any efforts from the authorities to stop them.

He   warned that the people might be forced to defend themselves.

Goje said, “I am addressing you this afternoon with a very heavy heart and shock over the barbaric and brutal massacre of about 114 innocent and peace-loving children, women and the aged, and burning down of over 60 houses, food, animals and assets of the people of  three villages in the Kaura Local Government area of Kaduna State by Fulani murderers on Friday night,  March 14, 2014.

“This incident is one out of the over 40 attacks on Southern Kaduna communities since 2011. In all these attacks, we have identified the perpetrators as Fulani herdsmen, but each time we raised this observation, the Fulani socio-cultural organisation within the state has always denied the involvement of its people by asking for proofs.”

He added, “In some of these attacks, suspects have been arrested and handed over to security agencies for prosecution, only for the culprits to be seen working freely on the streets the next day. The recent attacks were led by two well-known young Fulani residents in Manchock town, who died in the process.

“Their dead bodies have clearly and unambiguously been identified by the natives and their corpses are now kept by the Joint Task Force  command in Kafanchan for further forensic screening.

“This has clearly vindicated us and confirms our earlier position that the Fulani have declared a Jihad on the people of Southern Kaduna and Nigeria, as evidenced by this genocide in Bondong, the murder in Katsina State, Birnin Gwari, Plateau, Zamfara, Taraba, Benue, etc.

“We are asking the government to urgently consider our request for the siting of a military barracks within the radius of 25 kilometres of Kafanchan  so that they can quickly respond to all issues concerning security challenges in that area.”

In a related development, the Kaduna State Government has called on the residents to remain calm and shun rumours capable of escalating tension.

Governor Mukhtar Yero’s  spokesman, Mallam Ahmed Maiyaki, told journalists that the state government had taken adequate measures to safeguard the lives and properties of the residents.

He therefore urged them to go about their businesses peacefully as security agents were already on the  alert to maintain law and order in all parts of the state.

Also, the  state  governor, aborted  his official trip to  the United States where he was billed to address a conference on the security of northern Nigeria and Kaduna in particular.

Yero was already in the United Kingdom enroute to  the US to attend a symposium on peace and security in northern Nigeria, organised by the United States Institute for Peace, when the news of the attacks reached him.

The attackers, it was gathered, invaded the villages of Ugwar Sankwai, Ungwar Gata and Chenshyi  on Friday night when the residents were fast asleep.

Houses were said to have been razed, while villagers, who attempted to escape, were either gunned down or hacked to death by the  over 40 attackers.

One of the villagers, Nuhu Moses, who managed to escape from the scene of the attack, said in one village alone, no fewer than 50 people were killed.

He had said, “The attackers were more than 40 and were armed with dangerous knives, guns and other sophisticated weapons. Over 50 people were killed in our village alone and there is no house standing.

“All the houses were burnt by the attackers, while people who attempted to run were gunned down. I was just lucky to have escaped but our pastor’s wife and kids were among the people who were butchered.”

Also, a resident of Ungwar Sankwai, Jonathan Bako, described his escape as a miracle.

The Kaduna Command of the Nigeria Police Force  confirmed the incident.

Its spokesman, Aminu Lawan, said a detachment of policemen had been deployed in the area, while  investigations into the incident had begun.

Also, the  Vice-Chairman of the council,  Daniel Anyip, who stood in for the chairman, Kumai Bodu, who was away to China, said  several houses were set ablaze by the attackers.

He said that children and women were not spared, noting, “There is no justification for this inhuman act.”

“From our records, in all the three villages attacked, only five houses are standing, while  the people killed are about 100. These are villages that housed a lot of people but the surviving residents are now homeless,” he added.

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