More victims have been found following a massive armed attack on Runji village, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA), in the Atyap Kingdom of southern Kaduna State, which took place on the evening of 15 April.
On 16 April, 33 victims of the attack on Runji village were buried in a mass grave amid distressing scenes. Fourteen of the victims were children, and included a five-year-old boy who was reportedly beheaded. Several others were reportedly burnt beyond recognition.
According to survivors, at least 200 militia descended on the village at around 10.30pm on 15 April, ‘shooting sporadically’ and setting fire to around 40 houses. The attackers operated for over an hour before leaving, informing surviving villagers they would be returning.
Some of the terrorists lost their lives when soldiers and local vigilantes engaged them. The National President of the Atyap Community Development Association, who had complained about the late response of the security forces to an earlier incident in the area, informed a Nigerian Media House that the casualty figure would have been even higher had the soldiers not intervened.
Zangon Kataf LGA has been under sustained attack since Nigeria’s election period came to an end, despite having a joint military and police camp stationed 3km from its main town. An attack on Ungwan Wakili on the evening of 11 March claimed the lives of around 17 people, most of them women and children, allegedly following ‘a series of complaints of cow poisoning and destruction of farm produce by both herders and locals in the area’ and an altercation between security operatives and Fulani herders on motorcycles.
This attack occurred four days after 88 people were killed in a similar assault on an IDP camp in Benue State that had also largely targeted women and children, eliciting a rare but strong condemnation from the United Nations (UN) Office in Nigeria. The organisation expressed alarm at ‘the barbaric and senseless killings of young children including a young boy who was abducted and murdered in the most brutal manner’, emphasising that ‘these atrocities must not continue unchecked. The UN stands with the government and people of Nigeria in their efforts to bring an end to this senseless violence, bring to justice perpetrators and ensure that all citizens are protected and able to live in peace and security.’
The Nigerian presidency was also prompted to issue a statement lamenting the ‘concerted attack on innocent citizens in the state’, adding that ‘law enforcement agencies must take serious action to put an end to this.’
Nevertheless, attacks have continued. At least four people died in a raid on the Dutsen Bako community in Zangon Kataf LGA during the early hours of 5 April. Then on 12 April, nine people were killed, four were injured and five homes were damaged during an attack on Tanjei village. Among the casualties was a sleeping eight-year-old girl who was left behind by her fleeing family and died from a gunshot to the stomach, and a pregnant woman who was a month away from her due date.
The predominantly Christian ethnic minority groups who inhabit the southern part of Kaduna State have endured relentless attacks since 2011, with a significant uptick following the advent of the current administration in 2015.
CSW’s Press and Public Affairs Team Leader Kiri Kankhwende said: ‘We extend our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in these recent attacks in Benue and southern Kaduna States, and wish those who have been hospitalised a swift and full recovery. Although deeply distressing, such events are not at all uncommon for many communities in Nigeria’s central states, who continue to suffer unspeakable horrors as the authorities at both state and federal level, and the international community, do far too little to protect or assist them. The unaddressed insecurity has now metastasized and constitutes a threat to Nigeria’s territorial integrity, with serious implications for the region, the continent and the wider international community. Recent statements from the UN and the presidency are important, but concerted and concrete action is essential to ensure that the Nigerian security forces are adequately resourced to combat the threats posed by these terrorist groups, and to protect vulnerable communities. The international community must assist in this regard wherever possible, including by holding the federal and state governments to account, should they continue failing to fulfil their duty towards citizens.’
Notes to Editors:
- List of 33 of the Victims of the 15 April attack in Runji village, Zangon Kataf LGA, courtesy of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Zangon Kataf Secretariat:
- Women: Mrs Fransisca Jonathan, Mrs Elizabeth Joseph, Mrs Deborah Christopher, Mrs Jummai Samaila, Mrs Saratu Amos, Ms Precious Danladi, and Ms Sarah Kefas;
- Men: Mr Jonathan Husaini, Mr Ayuba Bivan, Mr Babang Ayuba, Mr Gideon Christopher, Mr Elisha Hananiah, Mr Jerry Bobai, Mr Alpha Bitrus, Mr Heron Sanusi, Mr Gora Haggai, Mr Ayuba Samaila, Mr Joseph Makeri, Mr David Amos;
- Children: Miss Esther Danjuma, Miss Blessing Danjuma, Miss Justina Philip, Miss Precious Philip, Miss Tabitha Christopher, Miss Kesiah Christopher, Miss Bridget Sunday, Master Ezra Christopher, Master Elkana Augustine, Master Yusuf Augustine, Master Daniel Augustine, Master Obadiya Sunday, Master Livinius Monday, Master Jethro Haggai.
- Those in the hospital: Mrs Asabe Philip, Mr Saviour Philip, Mr Ashong Monday, Miss Kut Slomon, Miss Eunice (surname unknown), Mr Habila Jonathan, Miss Lami Gambomr, Mr Marshal Monday.