Defence Headquarters, Abuja on Sunday ordered the Special Military Task Force in Plateau State to raid villages in the state to apprend the perpetrators of last week’s killings in Barkin Ladi and Riyom, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
Senator Gyang Dantong and the Majority Leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Gyang Fulani, were among the over 20 persons killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen at a mass burial in Maseh for the victims of earlier attacks in Barkin Ladi and Riyom, near Jos on July 8.
No fewer than 37 persons were reportedly killed when gunmen raided nine villages in the area on July 7.
The order came as the STF Commander, Maj.Gen. Henry Ayoola, said the task force asked some communities in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local governments to leave the areas due to “military necessity”.
Residents of five villages –Mahanga, Kakuruk, Kuzen, Maseh and Shong 2 – were on Saturday directed to vacate their settlements within 48 hours, to give way for a “military operation’’.
In a statement by the Director, Defence Information, Col Mohammed Yerima, the DHQ said the STF in Jos discovered that some of the “criminals’’ who carried out last week’s attack on innocent people were still hiding around some of the villages.
The statement said, “The criminals, having failed in their attempts to continue to instigate communal strife in Plateau, decided to wear military type uniforms and attack directly innocent citizens in parts of the state.
“This direct attack was obviously decided upon when these criminals realised that their previous tactics of inciting one section of the populace against another is no longer working because the people of Plateau State have seen through the divisive technique of these ungodly people.”
Ayoola said the order was “in line with international humanitarian laws and consistent with best global practices’’.
He said, “It should not be construed otherwise. The villages are not inhabited by one tribe; no one should see our action as targeted against any particular group.
“We are an unbiased umpire in charge of maintaining peace and ensuring security of lives and property. We are not interested in the politics of the state and nobody should see us a favouring any group.’’
Meanwhile, the order has stirred controversy as the people are suspicious of the move.
President of Berom Youth Movement, Mr. Francis Jamang, told our correspondent in Jos on Sunday that the people would only welcome the directive if it was aimed at dislodging the terrorists that had taken over their land.
Jamang said, “The same question we are asking is the motive behind the order, but if it is to occupy and dispossess us of our land, we will resist.