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Nigerian Army Fails to Fight Off Fulani Jihadists

Witnesses Decry Failure of Nigerian Army to Fight Off Fulani Jihadists


April 15, 2024

By Masara Kim

(Jos) As Western Mainstream Media remain rivetted to the war in Gaza, thousands in Nigeria defend against Islamist death blows in Plateau State, falling back chiefly on under-equipped civilian volunteers.

TruthNigeria investigations learned these ordinary community members, dubbed “vigilantes” by Nigerian Army spokesmen, are bravely confronting hundreds of terrorists in an ongoing battle 45 miles southwest of Jos the capital of Plateau State. With just homemade single shot pipe guns, the local guards, outnumbered and outgunned, are further targeted by soldiers entrusted with their protection, locals say. The Nigerian military has denied the allegations.

Local volunteer guard taking aim with pipe gun shotgun. in a file photograph Photo by Masara Kim for

As of April 15, more than 20 people have perished in the violence concentrating in an area reputed for its large potato exports and mineral deposits, TruthNigeria has learned. At least 10 of them were local volunteer guards, (contempuously called "vigilantes" by Nigerian Army spokespersons), TruthNigeria has learned. Four of them were killed by “friendly fire” that is by soldiers deployed to assist the self-defense, according to town leaders.

On April 12, hundreds of Islamic terrorists ravaged Christian villages along the border of Mangu and Bokkos counties [called “Local Governance Areas” in Nigeria].

Map depicts several of the towns in Bokkos County in Plateau State attacked for six days during Black Christmas. Courtesy of Stefanos Foundation in Jos.

A group of 20 to 30 local guards struggled for hours to protect vulnerable residents with just homemade single- shot pipe guns and hunting rifles, facing off against 300 to 600 terrorists armed with assault rifles.

Witnesses and local leaders recount how the local guards, trapped between terrorists and the military in one instance, fought desperately, sustaining casualties in a four-hour battle on April 13. The sunny morning fight near the Bokkos seat of power saw at least six local guards killed, including four by the soldiers, said Farmasum Fuddang, the youth leader of a local tribal association.

The battle followed a night raid of two villages the previous night on the eastern border of Bokkos with Mangu county, according to Fuddang.  At east 16 people were killed in the attacks, Fuddang said. TruthNigeria confirmed that the onslaught started from the village of Kopnanle located in the Mangu county at approximately 9:30 pm local time, with at least six people killed. Two hours later, ten people were killed in nearby Mandung-Mushu village in Bokkos county.

The ‘Allahuakbar’ shouting terrorists who spoke the Fulani dialect, according to residents, set fire to houses and a church in Kopnanle, shooting at residents as they tried to escape. For two hours, a group of 10-to 15 local guards battled to slow the attackers with their homemade pipe guns, losing four members in the process, said Asabar Daklak, a local volunteer leader.

The Fulani, a predominantly Muslim tribe in West Africa, is believed to have over 10 percent of Nigeria’s population. Despite producing a disproportionate share of Nigeria’s political elites, militants identifying as Fulani have killed six times more Christians than Boko Haram, an infamous self-proclaimed affiliate of the Islamic State, according to monitoring groups.

Fulani militants killed more than 8,222 Christians between January 2023 and January 2024 according to Intersociety, which monitors genocide in Nigeria. In one instance alone, Fulani terrorists killed more than 300 Christians in a six-day onslaught at Christmastime 2023.

The attackers in Kopnanle — numbering more than 300 — according to Daklak, killed two other residents before retreating to the nearby village of Mandung-Mushu. Hiding under the cover of the moonless night, the terrorists waded into Mandung-Mushu through a dark valley, said a local church leader, Rev. Danjuma Mandik, to TruthNigeria. They first opened fire at a group of local guards standing guard on the outskirts of the town, killing at least four, before shooting six more residents, Rev. Mandik said.

The victims included a one-year-old girl, identified as Peret Sylvanus who was brutally killed by the same bullet that killed her mother, Mwanret.

During both incidents, soldiers of a special military task force known as Operation Safe Haven failed to intervene from their base only 3 miles away until the attackers had fled, Fuddang said.

“We are compelled to perceive these series of events as clear signs the security agencies had colluded with the Fulani to attack our people,” wrote Fuddang, the Chairman of the Bokkos Cultural Development Council (BCDC) Vanguard.

“Despite the presence of security forces, including soldiers, the attacks were not halted, and in some instances, exacerbated by their actions,” wrote Fuddang in a press statement shared with TruthNigeria.

Fuddang highlighted a distressing scenario in Kopyal village where local guards bravely attempted to repel the assailants. During the 3-hour fire fight, soldiers intervened, not to assist the defense efforts, but to inflict further harm, resulting in the deaths of at least four volunteers, Fuddang wrote.

An injured victim of the military shooting, here identified by the pseudonym, “John,” for his safety, told TruthNigeria that soldiers attacking from the rear, opened machine gun fire at a defense line mounted by local guards at approximately 11:30 am local time. At the time, two local guards lay dead, killed by the terrorists numbering approximately 600, according to John.

Nigerian Army troops. Photo credit: X/@HQNigerianArmy

Several other witnesses speaking on background for fear of retaliation corroborated John’s account, noting that the soldiers based just half a mile away failed to intervene throughout the 3-hour battle until the local guards started making progress at pushing back the invasion. The soldiers, according to the witnesses, turned back after killing four local guards and injuring two others, leaving the terrorists to reluctantly withdraw after discovering that a majority of residents had escaped under the initial cover of the local guard fire.

In a statement obtained by TruthNigeria, the Nigerian Army task force through its spokesman, Major Nantip Zhakom, denied shooting at local guards, claiming its troops were “preoccupied with restoring normalcy during the confrontations between militia groups of different ethnic groups on 13 April 2024.”

“Kudos should be given to these troops who remained deployed without break for over 72 hours, ensuring that the high grounds and other vulnerable communities were dominated in a bid to protect law-abiding citizens,” according to the Nigerian Army statement.

Yet, attacks continued up to the morning of April 15, spreading across a nearby district called “Kwatas.” TruthNigeria gathered that just as in Kopyal, local guards struggled helplessly to minimize casualties, with one member becoming the single victim.

Prior to the latest incident, the terrorists marched freely across a large swath of land, attacking communities on their way back to their staging ground in the west of Bokkos, Fuddang said.

Governor Caleb Mutfwang on April 13 urged the military to “redouble their efforts in discharging their constitutional responsibility of protecting innocent communities.” Mutfwang in a statement from his Director of Press, Gyang Bere acknowledged the ‘attacks’ of the previous night and promptly shared intelligence on security threats for intervention.

But despite the military being ‘adequately’ informed of the presence of terrorists in surrounding mountains in Bokkos on the night of April 13, “no action was taken,” wrote Fuddang.

The failure of security forces to intervene effectively has raised concerns among global-rights advocates and politicians alike, with questions surrounding the government’s commitment to protecting its citizens.

“Prevention is better then cure,” said Senator Diket Plang, a member of the Nigerian Senate. “You don’t wait for something to happen before you begin to take steps to address it,” said Plang, acknowledging advance warnings including from TruthNigeria prior to the attacks.

Mr. Plang, the representative for Plateau central Senatorial district at the Nigerian Senate condemned the labeling of self-defense groups as "militias" or "vigilantes".

“The ordinary Plateau man doesn’t look for trouble,” said Plang in a telephone interview with TruthNigeria. “If you don’t bother him he won’t bother you,” Plang said.

The disparity in security responses between regions has also come under scrutiny, prompting demands for improved security measures and accountability from the authorities.

“Why is it only in the northeast that we have both the well-funded Civilian Joint Task Force and local guards while in the middle-belt, even gunsmiths for local hunters are [targeted]?” Emmanuel Ogebe, the leader of the Nigerian American Law Group asked.

“Who is born to rule men and who is born to be killed for cows in Nigeria?” Ogebe queried, emphasizing the constitutional rights of citizens to both government protection and self-defense.

Kyle Abts, the Executive Director of International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) raised similar concerns, querying why Air Force raids are not carried out in the Middle Belt against terrorists as witnessed in Muslim-dominated regions of the country.  

“The government has the ability but lacks the resolve and fidelity, as many enlist as soldiers as a job not a duty or honor,” wrote Abts in a text message.

“The Army’s 3rd Division [in Jos] with at least 10,000 soldiers, infantry weapons, and attack helicopters, is about 18 miles from Barkin Ladi and about 40 miles from Mangu and Bokkos. Additionally,  there are several strategically located  “mobile barracks” with at least a platoon, and these station at least a squad to numerous villages,” Abts texted.

“ It is no wonder that the victims of these attacks label the security forces as being ‘late’ or complicit, ” according to Abts.

—Masara Kim is the senior editor of TruthNigeria and reports from Jos.

Copyright 2024 TruthNigeria


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