Unidentified gunmen have once again defied security operatives to attack defenseless civilians in Plateau State, security forces confirmed Monday.
At least four residents of a small town in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area were killed when the attackers struck around around 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, the police and the military told newsmen Monday afternoon.
Police commissioner Undie Adie said there were no injuries reported in the incident, indicating that the attackers killed all the victims they came in contact with during the deadly operation.
The police chief said there was a delay in responding to distress call from Maraban Kantoma because of a miscommunication between the residents and the command headquarters in Jos, the state capital.
“We mobilised immediately to that community, but the next thing we learnt was that it was another community that was affected,” Mr Adie said. By the time a contingent of soldiers and police special forces arrived, four people had been killed and many of the attackers had fled.
Operatives were able to arrest four suspects at the scene, according to Umar Adams, a spokesperson for the Operation Safe Haven. Mr Adams, a major, told newsmen the four brought the number of suspects arrested since June 22 to 11.
“They have been arraigned today and will be transferred to appropriate authorities in Abuja” for further interrogation, Mr Adams said. He declined to say which authorities the suspects will be handed over to in Abuja.
Yesterday’s killings came a week after gunmen overran communities in the same Barkin Ladi LGA, killing residents estimated to be between 100 and 218, according to the police and Christian Association of Nigeria, respectively. Although the police have not corroborated the figures provided by the nation’s largest Christian body, officers are historically known to downplay death toll in the aftermath of fatal incidents.
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an escalation of security presence in the state following his condolence visit to the state governor in Jos on Tuesday, prompting the Defence Headquarters to launch the second phase of Operation Safe Haven.
Mr Adams said troops have been arriving in the state over the past few days, and the Nigerian Air Force has supported the operation with helicopters to further fortify the environment.
But the killing of four residents on Sunday despite the spike in deployment of security forces underscored the audacious capabilities of the attackers, as well as the handicaps of Mr Buhari, said security analyst Mike Ejiofor.
“If the government has the political will to handle this, he will handle it,” Mr Ejiofor, a retired director at the State Security Service, told newsmen by telephone Monday afternoon. “This situation is very embarrassing.”
Mr Ejiofor said the government must be able to provide basic necessities of life, especially the protection of lives and properties.
Mr Adie said the state is calm again as at Monday morning, adding that heavy security presence is hindering the free movement of killers.
“We have intensified our patrol along the highway and other places,” the police chief said. “The deployment has spread further into the hinterland.”