Two men believed to be soldiers were nearly lynched on Monday near Jos, the capital of Plateau State, on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and murder.
Irate youths intercepted the men in military camouflage at about 8am, local time, near the scene of a local vigilante member’s murder.
The slain vigilante, Mr. Markus Danang, was reportedly shot in the chest on Sunday at about 6:30pm, while escorting some straying cattle out of his community – Dangyel hamlet in Vwang District of Jos South Local Government Area.
“The cattle came grazing right in front of our houses where there were no grasses but harvested crops spread to dry.
“We asked the herders to move them out but they refused so we started to chase them out ourselves,” said a youth leader, Samson Joseph.
An eyewitness, Joshua Luka, said, the cattle were escorted some 1000meters away from the village, before two men in military camouflage came on a motorbike, and talked with the herders.
“We watched them from a distance as they talked with the herders. We thought they were soldiers on routine patrol until we started hearing gunshots.
“Markus fell with the first few shots before we could even run. I backed him and tried was running with the others but they kept chasing after us with sporadic shooting,” said Joshua.
Markus, a father of four, died five minutes after being shot. The shooters had taken over the only road out of the community, preventing evacuation for medical care, it was learnt.
On Monday morning, while discussing how to get justice, two men in military camouflage again came on an unofficial motorbike with an Islamic sticker plate, claiming to be looking for a missing cow.
Furious youths and women rounded them up, disarmed, interrogated and handed them over to Police.
The locals however became apprehensive when Police drove off with the suspects without questioning, despite reportedly confirming that the headquarters of Sector 6 of the Military Task Force in Jos South area never assigned the mission they claimed.
The locals barricaded roads, impounding a Police patrol vehicle in reaction, but became calm, when a local delegation of elders, youth leaders and activists offered to follow-up on the investigations.
14th attack in ten years
The vigilante member’s murder was the fourteenth attack in less than ten years in the village, locals say.
In at least four incidences, more than half of the village was razed, it was learnt.
In one of the attacks, a woman and two of her children were reportedly burnt to death in their home.
The locals have returned after every attack to rebuild and restart life, but face threats almost on a daily basis, said Dalyop Isaac Gyang, the Councilor representing Vwang Ward in Jos South LGA.
“I myself was attacked on my farm, once, and left for dead. Herdsmen with guns and machetes attacked me and left me half dead. I woke up after several hours to find myself in bandages in hospital, and was told I was hit with machete several times on the head and other parts of the body. It was much later that I regained memory of what exactly happened,” said Dalyop.
Uncovered Planned attacks
Last week, a leaked letter from the Department of State Services (DSS) to the Special Task Force codenamed Operations Safe Haven suggested plans to attack rural communities in Jos South, Riyom, Bassa and Barkin Ladi LGAs, all neighbors.
A similar alert was shared by a local non-governmental organization, two weeks ago.
A Journalist, Masara Kim of MK Reporters published a similar alert three months ago and was interogated for two days by Police and the DSS, and was forced to pull it down.
It is not clear if any suspects have been identified in connection to the supposedly planned attacks.