Nigeria attacks: Villagers say soldiers joined in slaughter

Survivors of the January 6 slaughter of 33 Christians in a village in Nigeria's Plateau State said Special Task Force (STF) soldiers stationed to protect them turned their weapons on those fleeing the attack.

According to a story by Morning Star News, speaking from her hospital bed with bullet wounds in her legs, Antele Alamba, 25, told the news agency that hundreds of Muslim Fulani herdsmen armed with guns and machetes attacked Shonong village in Riyom Local Government Area.

They did so unprovoked, burning homes and butchering women and children.

"The soldiers stationed in the village to protect us joined the Fulani herdsmen in shooting, and in the process most of our people were killed," Alamba said as tears dripped down her cheeks.

She added, "I was shot by soldiers I ran to for protection. We were all trapped in the village as there was no way of escape for us. We ran to the premises of the church, and some soldiers followed us there. They were shooting, and the herdsmen were shooting too. It was chaos and confusion everywhere."

Morning Star News reported sources said pastors of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) conducted a funeral service on January 7 for the 33 slain Christians amid tight security provided by soldiers.

Alamba, receiving treatment at Vom Christian Hospital near Jos, said the herdsmen killed the first Christian on January 5.

The next morning, word reached the village that Fulani herdsmen accompanied by a soldier had attacked a local Christian, Andrew Bature, his wife and others when he went to his farm.

"He and the women were attacked, and he was killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen," Morning Star News reported Alamba said. "His wife and the women who ran back to the village said Andrew Bature was killed by a band of Muslim herdsmen led by one of the soldiers stationed in our village by the name Aminu."

Villagers went to the farm and brought back Bature's body, she said.

"In less than 15 minutes of their return with the remains of Andrew Bature, hundreds of Fulani herdsmen armed with guns surrounded our village and began shooting everyone they saw," said Alamba. "They set fire on houses and either shot or butchered our women, children and the elderly."

Alamba, a student of environmental health at the School of Health Technology, Zawan, near Jos, said she miraculously escaped and trekked to neighbouring Fang village, where Christians took her to the hospital. Residents of Fang had come to Shonong to help defend them against the attackers.

Alamba said the soldiers who had been shooting into the air and shouting on Sunday night had demanded that area resident Jidauna Mwangwong open his shop to provide them alcoholic drinks, but that he had refused because of the late hour.

They forced another resident to open his shop, but not before insulting Mwangwong and telling them that "they would see how he will open his shop" the following morning, she said.

"After the soldiers drank themselves out, they went back to their duty posts and continued with the shooting into the air," Alamba said.

Another survivor, Edward Iliya, 22, said the raid was a collaborative effort by the soldiers and herdsmen.

"Twenty of us went to the farm of Andre w Bature to retrieve his corpse minutes before the attack occurred, and I was almost shot by one of the soldiers because he pointed his gun at me to shoot me when I dived for cover and scampered away," Iliya told Morning Star News.

He added, "I was in the village at the time of the attack. We were trapped in the village with no hope of escaping as the rampaging herdsmen attacked us in all directions. God in His infinite mercies caused Christians from our neighboring village of Fang to rush here to assist us. They repelled the Fulani gunmen, and we found ways to escape from the attackers."

Iliya, a student at Federal College of Land Resources Technology, Kuru, near Jos, said David Gwong, 22, son of the Shonong COCIN pastor, was among those killed in the attack. The pastor has fled the village, he said.

"Right now the entire village has been destroyed, and there are no more houses to return to," said Iliya, uninjured but assisting victims at the hospital. "When we (were) there yesterday for the burial of our dead relatives, there were only three houses left that were not burned by the attackers."

Reverend Yakubu Fom, pastor of the COCIN congregation at Riyom town, told Morning Star News that the victims' bodies were recovered amid charred houses and surrounding bushes.

Fom lamented that soldiers and other members of security agencies stationed in Shonong village did not keep Muslim attackers from murdering elderly Christian women and children in their homes.

"One wonders what the soldiers were doing in the village while the Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed and set fire on homes of our members without the soldiers repelling them," Morning Star News reported Fom said.

All of those killed, she said, were members of the Shonong COCIN congregation.

The church has about 300 members. Shonong also has a local congregation, Evangelical Church Winning All.