JOS, Nigeria, August 26 (CDN) — Twenty-four Christians were killed over the past two weeks by Muslim extremists in renewed attacks against Christian communities in central Nigeria.
The attacks started Aug. 11 in Rasta Foron village and continued sporadically until the concluding attacks on Aug. 21 in Kwi, Loton, and Jwol villages. Muslim extremists attacked a dozen villages or neighborhoods in the restive Plateau state in central Nigeria, a region known for religiously motivated attacks. In addition to the death toll, community members found this wave of attacks particularly disturbing because soldiers from the national army allegedly participated in the killings, or at a minimum accompanied those who committed the attacks.
Nnaji John, who lost nine family members in the attack on Heipang village, said she saw federal soldiers involved in the attack. “I saw them. They were in army uniforms,” she said in tears. “I even know some of them. They came along with the Muslims to attack us. I can swear to God Almighty that the attack was carried out with the support of the soldiers.”
Chollom Gyang, a man from the predominantly Christian community of Chwelnyap in the city of Jos confirmed that the Aug. 14 attack on his neighborhood was carried out with the support or tacit approval of Muslims in the army’s Special Task Force (STF), a unit designed to stop sectarian attacks.
“The attackers were the very soldiers deployed to the area to ensure protection of the people,” Gyang said. “One of the victims received a call from the STF men in the area to come out and assist, only to get gunned down by them as he stepped out from his house.”
Gyang said that identification cards of Muslim soldiers, berets and other pieces of their uniforms were found in the villages that were attacked. The specific circumstances of how those items were left behind are unknown.
In the wake of the attacks, Plateau Governor Jonah Jang called for immediate withdrawal of the Nigerian army brought to the state to keep the peace because, he said, Muslims in the army have taken sides with Muslim attackers.
“I am convinced that the armed forces are being polluted with the religious crisis in the country,” Jang said. “Before now, the military personnel used to stay in the barracks, but today the armed forces have started taking sides in this religious crisis, and if they are not called to order it will be dangerous for the country.”
Bitrus Kaze, the representative for Jos in Nigeria’s National Assembly, said in a recent press conference that there have been other times that military ID cards and pieces of uniforms have been found at the scene of sectarian attacks.
“It is a very sad testimony of the STF,” he said. “And what worries me is that in spite of that grievous allegation, it appears to me that STF has not come out, at least to deny it. It is really very strange and worrisome to me that in a scene of such a heinous crime, where a family of nine was wiped out, and an allegation of this nature was leveled against the military, it says nothing about it. It appears to me that the story surrounding the complicity is being given some genuineness.”
Captain Charles Ekeocha, spokesman of the task force deployed to Heipang to stop the attacks did not expressly address the allegations, but confirmed the number killed in the attack and said, “My troops went to the area to repel the attack.”
Alamveabee Efihraim Idyorough, a Christian who lives in the Jos suburb of Anaguta said his neighborhood has been attacked multiple times over the past 10 years.
“Do Christian ethnic minorities not have the right to exist in Nigeria?” Idyorough asked. “Are Christians not citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?”
Publication date: August 29, 2011