Right in my presence, they sliced my baby into two

THE SUN Newspaper

The fragile peace that had pervaded Jos in recent times was shattered again last Sunday. On that day, a group of Fulani herdsmen suddenly unleashed terror on innocent communities in both Jos South and Barakin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State. The attack is widely believed to be a revenge mission for the killings that took place in the city on January 20, 2010.

The invaders had reportedly entered Dogo na Hauwa, Zot, Rasat and Kutgot villages in Jos South Local Government Area as well as Fan in Barakin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State between 2.30 and 3.00 am when members of the communities were asleep. Many of the innocent villagers, including women and children, were mercilessly slaughtered. Most of the victims were killed at Du village, Governor Jonah Jang’s homestead.

Dogo na Hauwa and Zot villages are less than an hour’s drive from Jos, and the road to the villages are rough and rocky. The tarred road from Jos terminates where it veers off towards the governor’s village.
But for the road, the villages themselves have a lovely landscape. Na Hauwa is on an open land, separated from Zot where the Fulanis first unleashed horror, by a shallow river running across a footpath. Zot village is about 15 minutes walk from Na Hauwa. Just after Zot village is a hill which separates it from Das Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

Visitors going into the communities after the incident are strongly warned by fierce-looking security men that the villagers are not in the best mood to welcome visitors, saying tension was still high and the people are highly suspicious of strangers. Indeed, a journalist had earlier been beaten by the villagers who left him for dead. And at the mass burial for the victims on Monday, a journalist with the Federal Radio Corporation, Murtala Aminu, was accused by the villagers of spying for the Fulanis. But for the timely intervention of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Religious Affairs, Mr. N. Choji, the angry villagers had insisted that Aminu would be buried alongside the victims

Following the killings, the two communities are now in dire need of fumigation owing to the odour oozing forth from everywhere. Yet the Fulanis and the Beroms had for long lived together in the villages as neighbours.
According to the traditional head of the Rei community under which all the villages fell, Da Gwom Rei Du, Dah Phillip Kim, the Fulanis had been living in the communities until the January crisis when most of them fled the communities out of fear. They had expressed concern that they might be killed like their kinsmen in other communities who lost their lives and their cows. The ruler said even though the January crisis did not extend to the villages, the Beroms could not stop the Fulanis from leaving when they already felt that they were no longer safe in the community.

He, however, expressed regrets that the Fulanis had paid them back for their hospitality by returning to attack the villagers in the early hours of that fateful Sunday. There were two accounts on why children and women were the major victims. According to the traditional head, the attackers came through the hill to attack both Na Hauwa and Zot. He said on getting to the villages, the invaders probably divided themselves into groups.

While some were positioned to shoot from some distance, members of the other group came close to the houses and set fire to the mud houses to suffocate the sleeping villagers. As the women and children ran out, the Fulanis reportedly hacked them down mercilessly. Those that escaped from the houses were then allegedly shot at by the gunmen.
One of the villagers, Mr. Azumi Jik, who spoke during the mass burial, said he lost 10 members of his household including his wife, two children and grandchildren who had run out through the main entrance to his house. He said he escaped through the kitchen door.

Another account said, however, that most of the men were not in their homes when the Fulanis came. He said the villagers already got wind that the Fulanis would be coming to attack their communities about a week before the incident though they were not sure of the particular day. The men, it was learnt, had been leaving their homes to hold a vigil under the cactus plants in the village, leaving the women and children at home. Unfortunately, the Fulanis allegedly came from an unexpected direction. They caught the women and children unaware.

Another survivor recounted how, from his hiding place, he saw his wife and five children brutally murdered. It was learnt that some of the men who died in the encounter went back to their homes to rescue their families. But since they were not armed, they were also killed by the Fulanis. The same tactics were said to have been used in other affected villages, giving the impression that it was a well-planned attack on the Berom communities.

Daily Sun spoke with some of the survivors. Musa Gyang, who is receiving treatment at the Plateau Specialist Hospital, had deep cuts on his legs and a deep laceration on his face. He said he was a member of the vigilance group for the village and that they were already prepared for the Fulanis. He disclosed, however, that the invaders did not come on the day the villagers expected them, noting that they showed up about a week later.
Gyang said his assailant was a former resident of the village. When his assailant wanted to cut him on the head, he reportedly called his attacker’s name.

He continued: “I asked him, ‘Gombo, are you trying to kill me?’ That was when he cut me on the leg with the cutlass. After that, I fell and pretended to be dead.” Gyang said after Gombo left, he tried to get away but fell inside a ditch. He said Gombo was still not satisfied and later came back to check if he was still alive.
“I could see him but he did not see me,” Gyang said. “He looked for me to finish what he had started but could not find me. I managed to go to a nearby stream to wash my leg. I now lay down at the stream. That was where the security men found me and brought me to the hospital.”

Another victim is Chundum Yakubu, a 30-year-old mother of five. She said she had her two-year-old baby trapped on her back when she ran out of her house after hearing gunshots. As she was running for safety, she was reportedly felled by the attackers and beaten while her baby was forced out of her back by one of the Fulani men. She said she watched as her baby was sliced into two by one of them. She said she also lost another child in the same incident. She, however, escaped with injuries on her head and is currently receiving treatment at the hospital.

Mercy John, 20, is a student of the Berom Community Secondary School. She had her legs and hands broken and her nose partially chopped off by the invaders. She said she was in her room sleeping when the attackers entered her house, gave her a cut on the head and broke her limbs. She also carries a cut on her back. Painfully, she now has to lie on her back at the Specialist Hospital for the limbs to heal. Mercy, up till the moment Daily Sun spoke with her, did not know that her mother had been killed in the incident. She said they were five in the room but she did not know the fate of others. She disclosed, however, that she was sure that her father and two of her siblings were alive.
For many residents of the area, the incident of March 7 is still like a dream. And, in truth, the affected villages can never be the same again.


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