Nigerian military contradicts self, police, lawmaker on Langtang crisis

Special Task Force [Photo:]

The STF commander claimed 100 of the assailants were killed.

The Special Task Force (STF), maintaining the peace in Plateau State said it killed “more than 100’’ of the bandits that attacked Langtang villages last week.

The Commander of the STF, Brigadier General Henry Ayoola, stated this on Wednesday.

“The latest figure of the attackers that fell to our fireworks in the counter gun duel is more than 100. We really devastated them because we circled them up from various angles. They have never been so hit.

“STF troops deployed to Magama had first engaged them before they were later supported by additional troops that came from Shendam,’’ Mr. Ayoola told the News Agency of Nigeria in Jos on Wednesday.

Other villages hit by the attackers in the Wednesday night attack included Bolgong and Karkashi.

Mr. Ayoola said that two of the attackers were injured and had been arrested and handed over to the State Security Services. He said that many of the corpses had disappeared because the assailants were always quick to evacuate their dead ones.

“We found that most of the attackers were not even Nigerians; also, many of them wore talismans and all manners of things over their bodies,’’ he added.

The soldier questioned the patriotism of some Nigerians who allegedly brought fighters from outside the nation to kill their fellow compatriots.

Disputed casualty figure

The commander also disputed the casualty figure mentioned by the lawmaker representing Langtang in the House of Representatives, Beni Lar, who claimed that about 70 villagers had been killed by the invaders, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen

“The official is not in a position to confirm the number of casualties. You remember the council chairman had said that 32 people were confirmed killed. You also remember that we confirmed that only 20 villagers were killed.

“After the weekend, there has not been any new attack so where is the additional number of casualties coming from?’’ he asked.

The police in Plateau had told PREMIUM TIMES that the casualty figure was 30 while the STF casualty figure referred to by Mr. Ayoola is actually 28 as stated by its spokesman, Salisu Mustapha, on Friday. Mr. Mustapha had also told journalists that 20 of the assailants were killed as at Friday “in a gun duel that lasted several hours’’.

It is not clear how the casualty figure of the attackers rose to 100, according to Mr. Ayoola, after Friday, two days after the attack.

On the contrasting figure of casualties between the Plateau Police Command and the STF, Mr. Ayoola expressed surprise that the police was releasing casualty figures in a crisis that was not a police issue.

“The Langtang violence was not a police issue. The Plateau police command was not involved in the counter operation.

“The STF, you should remember, was specially established to tackle the Plateau violence because it was beyond the scope of the conventional security agencies in the state.

“It (STF) is not a statutory body. It is a circumstantial creation to take care of a particular situation, so it is the only body involved in the operations and should be the only source for confirming the real situation on ground,’’ he said.

The release of disputable casualty figures by the Nigerian military is not peculiar to Langtang. In other places with special military operations such as Borno, the military has often controverted its own accounts and figures as well as that of residents and other agencies. A recent one was the military’s claim that less than a dozen civilians were killed in Baga, Borno during a military raid on insurgents while residents, a lawmaker, and the state government said almost 200 people were killed.

Mr. Ayoola however, expressed satisfaction that calm had returned to the area, and declared that all other alarms were false as the STF men were on ground to tackle any situation. He also cautioned against the persistent rustling of cows, and vowed to deal with anyone caught in that act.


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