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Breaking News: Thousands Displaced as Soldiers Rampage in Civilian Community South of Jos

One Soldier, one Civilian, Dead After Brutal Night Raid to Snare Cattle Rustlers

By Masara Kim

(Jos) Hundreds of civilians have been forced to flee their homes in central Nigeria following a brutal raid by soldiers 25 miles south of Jos, the capital of Plateau state. The ongoing invasion has resulted in the death of one soldier and at least one civilian and the burning of several houses, TruthNigeria has learned. This comes just two days after TruthNigeria published an advance notice of an impending terror attack in the area known as Fan, located in the Barkin Ladi county [Local Governance Area].

The army authorities in Jos are not responding to queries from TruthNigeria. However, military and civilian sources in the area told TruthNigeria troops of a local military task force known as Operation Safe Haven, reportedly launched the raid in response to the alleged death of their colleague during a firefight with suspected cattle rustlers in the area on Wednesday (July 10).

A team of soldiers storming the village of Sangasa in an early morning raid of a suspected cattle rustlers’ camp on Wednesday allegedly was attacked by gunmen suspected to be members of the cattle-rustling gang, resulting in mutual casualties, TruthNigeria was told by witnesses. The situation escalated when soldiers on more than 20 trucks swarmed the area hours later, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of residents, according to a state assemblyman from the area.

“For now, the place is calm, but all the communities in that axis – talk of Sangasa and Radura have been sacked,” said Dickson Chollom who represents Barkin Ladi at the Plateau State House of Assembly.

“They have all been taken over by soldiers, and we do not know what will happen next because soldiers have their operational principles that might not be known to us,” said Chollom to TruthNigeria.   

Nigerian regular army soldiers watch buildings burn on Jan 5 to protest military abuse of power in Barkin Ladi. Credit: Masara Kim
Nigerian regular army soldiers watch buildings burn on Jan 5 to protest military abuse of power in Barkin Ladi. Credit: Masara Kim

Violent Retaliation and Seizure of Control

Clashes broke out at about 3 a.m. locally on Wednesday (July 10) after soldiers from the Special Task Force Sector 7 in Barkin Ladi stormed the village of Sangasa in search of suspected cattle rustlers, TruthNigeria learned. Gunmen believed to be gang members reacted violently, killing at least one soldier and pushing the soldiers into a retreat. The soldier killed was the Admin Officer for the STF unit. The retreating soldiers reinforced hours later and launched a counterattack on the community and the surrounding villages at 7 a.m. local time, shooting at the fleeing residents and setting fire to houses, according to witnesses.

Several residents, including elderly people who could not run, were captured and beaten by the soldiers, said a respected church leader in the area, Rev. Dung Gwom who is currently hospitalized for injuries sustained from the attack.

“They stormed the area on more than 20 trucks, laying siege to all the communities there,” said Rev. Gwom to TruthNigeria. “They first came around 3 a.m. and were shooting sporadically,” said Rev. Gwom, the regional chairman of the Church of Christ in Nations in the Fan district. “When I even heard the gunshots, I thought it was Fulani militants,” said Rev. Gwom by telephone.

“At sunrise when I went out to find out what had happened, they suddenly appeared on three trucks and ordered me and other residents there to lie down,” Gwom said.

“Despite identifying myself as a Pastor, they flogged us with giant canes and threatened to shoot anyone who lifted their head up,” he said. “While being treated at the hospital, I heard they mobilized more soldiers and took over the entire place,” he said.

As of 8:30 p.m. local time, the casualty figures remain uncertain. Assemblyman Chollom confirmed the deaths of two individuals, including a soldier and a civilian resident.

“Unfortunately, the admin officer of the sector 7 STF command in Barkin Ladi and the person they went to arrest lost their lives. But we hope there has not been any further loss of life,” he said.

The region of the flurry of attacks is Central Plateau State, where Islamist Muslim raiders massacred  295 civilians from Christmas Eve and through the following five days, today remembered as “Black Christmas” by locals. TruthNigeria has not learned that any of the marauders were arrested or prosecuted afterwards. Civilian-military relations have been characterized by distrust, according to residents interviewed by TruthNigeria. 

Masara Kim is an award-winning conflict reporter in Jos and serves as senior editor of TruthNigeria



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