May 23, 2013
Nigeria’s Unholy War
Posted on Apr 6, 2010
You may have heard about the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, and wondered why it is a flashpoint of unspeakable violence. Clashes between Muslims and Christians in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people. A similar uprising killed up to 700 people in 2004. Another round of riots claimed more than 400 lives in 2008 and displaced several thousands.
This year alone, Jos has witnessed two such bloodbaths. On Jan. 17, mobs killed about 400 residents of Jos. The second round of attacks, on March 7, was even more vicious. Human rights groups and government sources say as many as 500 people may have been killed in the attacks. Among the dead were a 4-day-old infant and a 3-month-old baby. A 2-year-old boy had both eyes plucked out and his legs severed from his body. He died screaming in pain.
“I killed three people; two men and a woman. ... I killed them with a stick, with a knife,” Dahiru Adamu, 25, a cattle herder, says in explaining his part in the last round of attacks.
“In the first crisis, they killed most of my brothers,” Adamu says, justifying his viciousness. He first beat his victims into a stupor with a stick, after which he stabbed them to death with a short knife.
Adamu and his cohorts, dozens of Muslim, Hausa/Fulani herdsmen, descended on the village of Dogo Na Hawa, south of Jos, in the dawn of March 7 and slaughtered hundreds with machetes, knives and cutlasses. The villagers were sleeping when the attackers arrived and set their houses on fire to smoke them out. Of course, they ran out. The victims, mostly the old, the infirm, women and children, were cut down with an assortment of knives and machetes.
Mark Lipdo, an official of the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian charity group, says the village of Zot, another settlement that was attacked, was almost wiped out in the violence.
He says: “we saw mainly those who are helpless, like small children and then the older men, who cannot run, these were the ones that were slaughtered.”
It was an act of retribution. The residents of Dogo Na Hawa, a village of Christians, were marked since Jan. 17 when Christian mobs killed about 400 Hausa Muslims in Hai Kura Karama, south of Jos. Their bodies were disposed of in wells and sewers.
“They killed a lot of our Fulanis in January,” Adamu says, referring to the fate of his ethnic group in the January attacks. “So I knew that this time, we would take revenge.”
Peam Shut, a survivor, says he lost about 17 members of his family.
Shut was awakened that gruesome Sunday morning by a gunshot. He ran outside and found a group of men, armed with machetes and clubs, throwing a petrol bomb at his brother’s house. He watched as his brother’s wife, Hanatu, tried to flee. Hanatu could not escape her cruel fate. She was butchered. The attackers then turned his way and shouted: “There are the other cattle.” Peam Shut ran. He got away. But his wife and son were not so lucky: They were cut to pieces.
Pastor Johana Gyang Jugu lost his family and his church building. Like most of the other people, he was wakened by gunfire. His wife, Rose, and 18-year-old daughter, Mary, ran with him but were separated in the confusion. He turned back to see them both hacked to death. He ran for his dear life. “I tried my best,” he says, as if to apologize to the dead. “There is nothing I can do, I am just crying.”
According to eyewitnesses, attackers yelled “Allahu Akhbar” before burning down churches and homes. Survivors say the attackers were mostly members of the Muslim Fulani clan, while the victims were mostly Christians. Some say the attackers killed anybody they captured if they could not answer in Fulani, the language of the attackers.
On the other side of the conflict, however, is Hassan Harouna, 2, who has to lie on his front on his bed at La Tahzan Clinic, in Jos. Hassan sustained his injuries in an attack by Christians on Muslims on Jan. 17. The skin from his lower back over his buttocks and down his left leg was burned. He was tied to his mother’s back (as women carry their babies in this part of the world) when they were both doused in petrol and set ablaze.
Human Rights Watch put the death toll in the January clashes at 492, and said that 364 of those killed were Muslims.
According to Hassan’s father, Abdullahi Harouna, armed men invaded their village of Kuru Karama and started to burn down houses. “They herded us into one place and started chopping people with machetes,” he recalls in agony.
Abdullahi escaped with three of his children. But Hassan and his mother were not so lucky. Hassan lay among the dead in a mass grave for 24 hours before he was found.
While the March attack of Muslims on Christians was purely retaliatory, there are conflicting reports of what triggered the January attack of Christians on Muslims.
Community leaders insist that it began with an argument over the rebuilding of a Muslim home, destroyed in November 2008 violence, in a predominately Christian neighborhood. Police sources, however, say it started when Muslim youths set a Catholic church, filled with worshippers, on fire.
Who would believe that Jos was once Nigeria’s top tourist destination and was known as “the home of peace and tourism”? Indeed, the name Jos is an acronym for Jesus Our Savior, reflecting the influence of Christian missionaries. Located on a tableland in central Nigeria, its area covers about 3,000 square miles (8,000 square kilometers) and has an average elevation of 4,200 feet (1,280 meters), with the surrounding high plains exceeding 3,200 feet. Because the city lies at an elevation of 1,300 meters above sea level, it is cooler than anywhere else in Nigeria. This makes Jos attractive to Europeans and others from temperate regions.
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