At least 25 Fulani travellers were on Saturday buried after they were intercepted and killed by suspected Irigwe militia in Jos, Plateau State, authorities and witnesses said.
The incident happened at about 10.30am around Gada-Biyu – Rukuba road area in Jos, the state capital.
Daily Trust gathered that about 50 of the travellers who were moving in a convoy of 5 hummer buses are unaccounted for at the time of filing this report, while at least 14 who sustained various degrees of injuries but escaped are being treated in hospitals.
Contrary to claims that the attackers were bandits, police authorities in Plateau State described them as “suspected Irigwe militia.”
The assailants reportedly dragged the victims out of their vehicles which were trapped in gridlock and then killed many of them using machetes, daggers, knives, stones and other dangerous weapons.
Saturday’s attack was carried out about two weeks after two people were killed when youths blocked the same Gada-Biyu highway.
Two trucks, one carrying cattle, were burnt to ashes. Attacks and reprisals have become common in Plateau State of recent, depleting the gains recorded following the restoration of peace by the incumbent government.
Governor Simon Bako last night imposed a curfew on Jos North, Jos South and Bassa LGAs between 6pm and 6am.
Victims of latest attack
Our correspondent in Jos gathered that the victims of Saturday’s attack were Fulani mostly born and brought up in Ondo and Ekiti states who were returning home after attending the annual Zikr (prayer session) organized by Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi to mark the commencement of Muharram, the new Islamic New Year.
It was learnt that while moving in a convoy of five buses, the innocent travellers were intercepted while passing through Rukuba Road in Jos to avoid the congestion around the city centre.
They reportedly ran into a congregation of some members of the Irigwe community who were moving six corpses from Plateau Hospital for burial.
Plateau State Police Command in a statement confirmed that 22 lives were lost in the attack and identified the culprits as “suspected Irigwe youths and their sympathisers.”
The State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Ubah Gabriel, said in a statement: “22 Islamic faithful were intercepted and killed.
“They were travelling in a convoy of five buses and returning from the Annual Zikr prayer in Bauchi State and heading to Ikare in Ondo State. Unfortunately, 22 persons were killed and 14 injured in the attack.
“Upon receipt of the report, a team of police personnel, the military and other sister agencies were immediately mobilised to the scene where 21 victims were rescued and six suspects arrested,” he said.
He said the Commissioner of Police, Edward Egbuka, and GOC 3-Division, Major General Ibrahim Ali, have visited the scene and ordered for a discreet investigation to fish out other perpetrators of the act.
Our correspondent who visited the Plateau Specialist Hospital observed that the 25 corpses deposited had been macheted with many showing head trauma.
A funeral prayer according to Islamic rites was held for the 25 victims within the hospital premises before they were conveyed to the Dadin Kowa burial ground in Jos South for burial.
Speaking with Daily Trust, the Secretary-General of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) in Plateau State, Alhaji Sani Mudi, said the remains of the victims were buried at the Dadin Kowa Cemetery to avoid escalating tension within Jos centre.
A resident of Jos, Mohammed Sani, accused security operatives in Jos of looking the other way when it was obvious that a disaster was about to happen.
“Over 3,000 Irigwe natives including men and women carried out an illegal procession for many kilometres. They took corpses from Plateau Hospital, passed through Ibrahim Taiwo Police Headquarters, Polo Ground and then Gada-Biyu.
“They were wailing, crying and singing war songs. They caused a serious gridlock along the route and emotions were high. Processions have been banned by the Plateau State government because of the tension in the state but nobody stopped the Irigwe. Security operatives should know that allowing open procession is a recipe for calamity,” he said.