In a horrifying incident, at least 140 people lost their lives in a brutal assault by armed rebels in Plateau State, central Nigeria. The death toll sharply rose on Monday evening, December 25, following major disturbances over the Christmas weekend. The armed groups, locally known as “bandits,” orchestrated attacks on 20 different communities in Central Nigeria, a region that has grappled with religious and ethnic tensions for several years.
The head of the local government in Bokkos, Plateau State, Kassah, reported on Monday that “as many as 113 persons have been confirmed killed as Saturday hostilities persisted to the early hours of Monday.” He added, “We found more than 300 wounded people.”
Authorities revealed that all injured individuals had been transported to hospitals in Bokkos, Jos, and Barkin Ladi.
The attacks unfolded while residents were asleep on Sunday, December 24th. The assailants, identified as ‘bandits,’ descended upon the villages, launching a series of ruthless assaults that included burning homes and claiming lives.
Markus Amorudu, a resident, recounted the harrowing experience, stating, “We were sleeping when suddenly loud shots rang out. We were scared because we weren’t expecting an attack. People hid, but the assailants captured many of us, some were killed, and others wounded.”
Death toll from the deadly Christmas attack on 20 communities in Plateau state rises to over 140, as more dead bodies of those who tried to escape the attacks are found by search teams. pic.twitter.com/oMG0KSiDVS
— Amnesty International Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) December 26, 2023
The region, situated on the border between Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, has been a longstanding arena for ethnic and religious tensions.
The motive behind the latest attack and the responsible parties remain unclear at this point.
Security personnel have been deployed to prevent further clashes in the area, where recurring tit-for-tat killings between predominantly Muslim herders and predominantly Christian farmers often escalate into violent village raids by heavily armed groups.
The attacks, originating in the Bokkos area, extended to Barkin Ladi, resulting in 30 casualties. Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwan condemned the incident as “barbaric, brutal, and unjustified” on December 24th, emphasising proactive measures to curtail ongoing attacks against innocent civilians.
Plateau State, often referred to as “Nigeria’s Middle Belt,” has witnessed numerous ethnic and religious conflicts, with violence often framed as a struggle between Muslim herders and predominantly Christian farmers.
Complicating matters is the persistent menace of bandit militias that terrorise the region, conducting raids on villages and subjecting inhabitants to ransom demands while operating from concealed forest bases. Disputes over natural resources further contribute to the prolonged conflict.
Amid the turmoil, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, elected in February, has pledged to attract more investment to Nigeria, addressing the country’s enduring security challenges.
As rescue operations continue in the affected communities, both the police force and the joint security task force Operation Safe Haven are yet to comment on the attacks. The situation remains fluid, demanding urgent attention to mitigate further loss of life and restore stability to the troubled region.