“This is a Black Day in Benue, this killing is beyond Fulani herdsmen and the dimension and tactics is now different in the approach this gunmen now adopt to kill our people”
This is the submission of Benue state Acting Governor Mr Benson Abounu, when briefing newsmen after attending state security meeting in makurdi, the Benue State Capital
Suspected gunmen yesterday attacked Ayar Mbalom community in Gwer-East Local Government Area of Benue State, killing 19 persons, including two priests of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi.
Urban express news online learnt from some local inhabitants who pleaded anonymity that the gunmen, who ransacked the entire village around 5:30 a.m., also set ablaze over 80 houses and destroyed foodstuff.
One of the sources said: “Those gunmen, unknown to us, ambushed our settlement. They shot sporadically at dawn, and slaughtered our people, including two Catholic parishioners who were in the church at St. Ignatius Quasi Parish in Ukpor-Mbalom for their 5:30 a.m. devotion.
The attack came barely four days after the murder of 10 persons by herdsmen in Guma Local Government Area and the destruction of 300 houses by men suspected to be military personnel in Naka, Gwer West Local Government Area.
The Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Rev. Father Moses Iorapuu, who confirmed the incident newsmen, named the priests killed in the attack as Rev. Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha.
Iorapuu who expressed disgust that the police seem to know nothing of the attacks which have been going on in other villages within Benue State since the anti-open grazing law came into effect last year, wondered why the international community has remained silent over the massacre of the citizens.
“It is very clear that it has been the goal of the jihadists to conquer Benue and Tiv people who resisted their advance into the middle belt and the Eastern part of Nigeria since 1804, the people who rejected Islam and fought for the unification of Nigeria in the Civil War of 1967 – 1970.
“There were over 170,000 internally displaced persons before the Naka invasion, and surely, with the current situation in Mbalom, Benue will be flooded with thousands more.
“The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi is one of the largest in Nigeria and has been active in providing relief materials, including education and skills acquisition lessons. To go for the priests means total destruction of everything we stand for and believe in as a people,” Iorapuu said.
Consequent upon the killings, tension is rising across Makurdi city resulting in security beef-up and closure of businesses, including major markets like Wurukum, Modern Market, Wadata and North Bank markets by the owners for fear of the unknown.
The Commissioner of Police, Fatai Awoseni, who also confirmed the incident, said he got the information as early as 5:00 a.m. and quickly mobilized security personnel to the scenes of the attacks.
In a reaction, President Mohammadu Buhari described as vile and satanic the killing of the worshippers and the priests.
Buhari, who declared that the country would not bow to the machinations of evildoers, yesterday vowed that the assailants would be hunted down and made to pay for the sacrilege committed.
“This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable. Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” the president said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, yesterday.