Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
No fewer than 21 persons have again been massacred by gunmen in Heipang community of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State despite military engagement in the state.
Confirming the attack, Spokesman of the military’s Special Task Force (STF) in the state, code-named Operation Safe Haven, Captain Ola James, said that the latest incident took place in the early hours of Thursday, August 10, at about 1:00 a.m.
James said that 21 persons were killed, while 13 others were critically injured and are receiving treatment in the hospital, adding that troops of the task force have been deployed to the community.
He said: “There was an early warning signal that some bandits could launch attacks, which prompted the operation to mount checkpoints in the area. But the bandits followed another route and attacked the community. We have deployed our men to restore law and order in the area.”
Meanwhile, an eyewitness, Mr. John Pam, said that the attackers raided the village killing his brother, wife, and children, adding that the attack is the second on Heipang in one month.
Pam observed that the spate of attacks on villages in Plateau State by herdsmen has intensified in recent months despite the recent visit of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Taoreed Lagbaja to the state, who charged the soldiers to deal ruthlessly with the criminals.
During his visit to the state, the COAS who launched “Operation Hakorin Damisa IV” had charged his men to clamp down on the attackers, warning that they were not deployed there to play chess but to end the spate of attacks and killings in the local government and other parts of the state.
Hakorin Damisa in Hausa language is translated to mean Leopard’s teeth.
Also, eight special Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), several army-mounted Hilux vehicles, and motorcycles were unveiled for the operation which kicked off immediately.
Speaking while addressing the troops at the Mangu Mini Stadium, General Lagbaja urged the soldiers to do everything possible to stamp out the crises in the area, assuring them that every resource needed to succeed in the operation, both men and materials, would be made available to them.
He said: “You’re not here for a chess game but for a serious business. We will make sure that we address all the challenges you may encounter and for you to make sure that the crises do not resurge.
“I must begin by thanking you for what you have been doing to bring peace and stability to Mangu and Plateau State. As your chief of army staff, I have encapsulated my command philosophy which is to have a Nigerian Army that is well-trained, equipped, and highly motivated toward achieving our constitutional responsibility in a joint environment.
“That means you must work with other services; you must work with local communities. You are the people’s Army, when they send a distress call, you must respond as quickly as possible and when you do that, you give them feedback on what you have done. That is the way you build confidence and trust. As your COAS, my philosophy will be driven by leadership, operational effectiveness, and sound administration.
“You are not deployed here to play but to conduct an operation and you must do that and be guided by the rules of engagement. You must recover those weapons from whoever is carrying a military-grade weapon or any other weapon. You must not take sides. The GOC has briefed me about the challenges faced in the field and the need for more combat enablers.
“What we have brought here is the tip of the iceberg, we will give you the best to work with; we will take care of the communication, the motorcycles, and all your administrative issues, but please note that you must work effectively, we must see the results. This violence must be stamped out completely. I wish you the best.”
But unfortunately, the current massive attack was recorded less than two weeks after the charge was given by the COAS.
THISDAY gathered that there was an earlier attack at Heipang on Sunday night that claimed one Mr. Umar Idris believed to be a Fulani and a trader at a cattle market in the area.
The development degenerated into serious tension in the area with the military deploying troops to mount roadblocks around the area. But they could not prevent it as the attackers swooped on the community four days later killing at least 21.