head had retired to his house and was about to sleep when he heard sporadic gunshots outside.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that there was commotion in the community and some villagers who didn’t know what was happening ran to his house for protection. Within minutes, the gunmen stormed his palace and shot the occupants dead and torched his house.
During an interview with our correspondent, Isa broke down in tears and was unable to recall how he escaped the gunmen’s attack. He said, “Please, I cannot continue. My heart is heavy.’’ He called in his assistant, Haruna Adamu, to tell our correspondent what happened on the day of the attack.
Adamu who also escaped the attack said, “They burnt many people in the village apart from the ones they killed with guns. The ones they burnt were 17 and the ones shot dead were about 20. We took some of the injured to hospital and they died there. Some of the victims are still in hospitals. The village head narrowly escaped. But his wife, son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and a brother-in-law, who is a retired soldier, were killed by the attackers.’’
He accused their Hausa/ Fulani neighbours as responsible for the attack, stating that they wanted them to give up their lands.
He said “We have come to realise that the genesis of this attack on our people has to do with the issue of burial ground in our community. We thought that the issue had been resolved. But with the attack, we were wrong. The burial ground is our heritage. When the Hausa community first came to our land, they started using the place for the burial of their people and nobody stopped them. At one point, the owner of the land decided to sell it and when he approached the Hausa community, they said that they would not buy claiming that nobody owns the land.
“The owners of the land on which the burial ground was situated were in need and they decided to look for buyers. It was then that the native community decided to purchase the place and everyone was aware of the transaction which the Hausa community also witnessed. Later, they turned round to claim ownership of the land insisting that it is their own heritage.’’
Adamu said the gunmen went away with the phones of some of the residents during the attack. He expressed the fear that the gunmen might return to the community to attack the people, claiming that they had been sending threat messages to the survivors after the attack. He called on the government to investigate the fresh threat on the people to stop further attacks on the community
But the leader of the Hausa community in Yelwa Zangam, Alhaji Umaru, denied any involvement of his people in the attacks and killings.
Umaru, who spoke through his Deputy, Danladi Yelwa, confirmed that the issue of burial ground was a source of conflict between the two communities, adding that the matter had been taken over by the Local Government Authority for amicable resolution.
He said “What happened is that the burial ground has been used by our people for over 300 years. Recently, the Anaguta natives claimed ownership of the burial ground and we entered into discussion with them.
Wherever there is burial ground, it is not good in Islam for a road to pass through the place and this made some of our youths to block the road. But the Anaguta people reopened the road and it became a source of conflict between the two parties.
“Luckily, the matter was taken over by the district head and he said we should settle. Thereafter, the paramount ruler called the two parties and had a discussion with them during which an elder from Anaguta suggested that the issue of burial ground was not an issue of one man or a tribe but the responsibility of the Local Government to intervene and settle. The council chairman ordered the opening of an old road and asked the people not to follow the disputed road and urged everyone to live in peace. Since the council authority’s intervention which asked the two parties to await its final decision on the matter, the issue of burial ground came to an end and we have been living peacefully with each other until the recent attack on the community.
“We don’t know what happened and we don’t know where the attackers came from. The allegation that we are behind the attacks in the community is untrue. About 10 of our people including the Chief Imam in the community, Alhaji Umaru, have been arrested in connection with the attack even when no weapon was on them. We want our people to be released because they don’t know anything about the incident.’’
16 victims get mass burial
Meanwhile, the remains of the remaining victims of the attack were on Saturday given a mass burial. A youth leader in the community, Yakubu Bagudu, told Sunday PUNCH that the corpses were buried in the community after they were conveyed from the Jos University Teaching Hospital on Saturday.
Bagudu who also lost his son, brother, house and car to the attack, said, “We have just buried about 20 of the victims who are mainly those shot dead by the gunmen. We have earlier buried 17 people who were burnt beyond recognition in the attack.”
President, Plateau Baptist Conference, Dr K Saleh, who conducted the burial service, consoled the people over the calamity that had befallen the community
He urged them not to take revenge over the killings, adding that, “vengeance belongs to God.”
In another vein, Chairman of Lantang North Local Government, Joshua Ubandoma, has cried out over alleged terrorists’ invasion of the council area to attack his people.
The council chairman who raised the alarm while addressing journalists in Jos on Friday pleaded with the government and the security agents to do everything possible to stop the planned attack on his people.
He claimed that the terrorists were spotted on Thursday while entering the Tarok land through Wase and Kardako axis in the Southern zone of the state.
He said he had reported the matter to the Commander, Field Operation Base in Langtang North including the state Commissioner of Police who he said confirmed receiving intelligence reports on the influx of the terrorists in the two council areas.
Ubandoma said, “On Thursday at about 4pm, we had an influx of terrorists. They were seen around the Southern zone in Wase axis coming to attack the Tarok nation in Langtang North and Lantang South LGAs.’’