Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: At the Mass Burial of '63' - Gunmen Open Fire On Mourners in Jos

Photo: Vanguard
Mass funeral in Jos.

Senator Gyang Dantong representing Plateau State North and the majority leader in the Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Gyang Fulani, yesterday died of 'shock' during an attack by gunmen at the mass burial of victims of Saturday's massacre in Maseh village in Riyom local government area of the state.

Dantong and Fulani were part of mourners who had gathered to give mass burial to the victims of Saturday killings when gunmen struck. Pandemonium later broke out as the mourners had to scamper for safety.

The lawmakers were said to be part of those running for dear lives and allegedly fell in the process and died of shock in the process.

House of Representatives member Simon Mwadkwon was also seriously injured in the attack and is receiving treatment in hospital. The chairman of Barkin Ladi local government, Mr. Emmanuel Lowan, narrowly escaped death.

It was gathered that while the mass burial was going on, some unknown gunmen struck and open fire on the mourners while security personnel at the venue returned the fire and were said to have killed about 16 of the attackers and apprehended one of them.

The death toll in the gunmen's attack has risen to 114, as 63 were given mass burial while 50 other people were burnt at the village.

Senator Dantong was a native of Bachit District of Riyom LGA while Fulani hailed from Pomol village of Heipang District of Barkin Ladi LGA of the state.

The gunmen invaded Maseh during the mass burial of 63 victims of Saturday's attack in Karkuruk in Barkin Ladi.

No fewer than 50 people were yesterday discovered burnt in the house of a pastor of the Church of Christ in Nigeria in Matse village.

Special adviser on security to Governor Jonah Jang, Mr. Istifanus Gyang, confirmed the incident.

It was further gathered that the victims, mostly women, children and the aged, had run into the church for safety when they heard of the Saturday morning massacre in neighbouring Barakin Ladi LGA.

The attackers were said to have got wind of the presence of the victims in the church and surrounded the church and then set it ablaze with the victims trapped inside.

The gunmen were also said to have ensured that nobody escaped as they stood by to shoot anybody that tried to escape.

It was also learnt that the police have evacuated women, children and the aged from the villages for fear of another attack as the gunmen were said to be smarting for another round of attack.

Even the villagers could not bury their dead because the gunmen were still threatening them.

Eyewitness told LEADERSHIP: "The situation is so terrible that it appears we don't have a government or security. We are left on their own at the mercy of God."

Before his death, Gyang Fulani had expressed regret at the continued massacre without any solution. Short of describing it as genocide and ethnic cleasing, Fulani described the Saturday attack as a deliberate effort to exterminate his people.

He had told LEADERSHIP: "It was a very dark day for the people of Gashish because terrorists numbering over 400 carried out a well-planned attack on the quiet people of Gashish district in Barakin Ladi local government area of Plateau State.

"I had, some months ago, on the floor of the Plateau House of Assembly, called on the international community through the UN to provide protection for our people."

But Special Task Force (STF), in a statement, claimed that 14 people were killed while 21 of the assailants also died in a shootout between the STF and the gunmen.

The STF spokesman, Capt Salihu Mustapha, stated that the attackers were heavily armed with different assault uniforms with bullet-proof vests, killing and burning houses.

Mustapha also claimed that two soldiers were killed in a shootout with the gunmen

Jonathan, Senate, ACF, northern governors condemn killings

President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Governors' Forum (NSGF) condemned the killings.

Jonathan yesterday issued a marching orders to security forces in the country to leave no stone unturned in their bid to smoke out those responsible for the gruesome murder of Senator Dantong and Mr. Fulani.

According to the president, security operatives must comb everywhere in the country non-stop, until the killers of the senator and honourable member are brought to book.

A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, quoted the president while commiserating with the government and people of Plateau State as well as the leadership of the Senate over the incident.

Describing the killing as cruel and regrettable, Jonathan said, "The federal government is working hard to ensure that there is a check on impunity. That much was demonstrated with the recent changes made in the top echelon of our security architecture especially with the appointment of the new national security adviser.

Meanwhile, President of the Senate David Mark yesterday described the death of Senator Dantong in Plateau State as shocking, warning that "the incessant killings of innocent Nigerians must be stopped".

"Government at all levels and security operatives," Senator Mark stressed, must rise to halt these senseless killings.

"We must do everything within the ambit of our laws to ensure that this type of murderous acts is stopped. As a nation, we must just rise against those who are determined to return us to a state of nature where life had little or no value," he lamented in a very subdued voice.

Describing the death of Dantong as "a personal loss", Senator Mark said the deceased was "a patriotic parliamentarian, quintessential gentleman and committed nationalist who was killed in active service to his fatherland".

He called on the security agencies to bring the perpetrators of these gruesome deaths to justice.

Also, the ACF has condemned the killing of Senator Dantong, describing the act as barbaric.

In a reaction yesterday, the ACF in a statement by its spokesman Mr. Anthony Sani, decried the attack, saying that any grievance could be dealt with under a democratic government. The group also called on the security agencies to apprehend those behind the heinous act.

But the NSGF has appealed to the people of Plateau State to exercise maximum restraint following the death of Senator Dantong, Hon Danfulani and several others in the latest attacks on villages in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local governments of the state.

Chairman of the forum and Niger State Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu said the forum is pained by the barbaric act, especially that it came at a time that the federal government is overhauling the nation's security architecture to enable it contain the excesses of various armed groups terrorising the nation.

A statement by Governor Aliyu's chief press secretary, Danladi Ndayebo urged families of the victims not to retaliate, emphasizing that vengeance belongs to God

Jang imposes 12-hour curfew

Following the breach of security in Jos and its environs, Governor Jonah Jang has imposed a curfew in Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom LGAs with effect from yesterday.

A statement signed by the commissioner for information and communication Pastor Yiljap Abraham said the curfew would start from 7.30 pm yesterday and end at 7.00am Monday morning.

The statement further said the curfew starts 6pm today till tomorrow 7am till further notice.

Reprisal attacks in Heipang

According to reports, there were reprisal attacks by youths, especially youths from the same constituency as late Fulani, who blocked major roads leading to the area in wait for possible victims to vent their anger on.

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