Three more people have died after soldiers opened fire on rampaging youth in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State.
One person had earlier been confirmed dead. Witnesses told PREMIUM TIMES that three of seven people who were injured in the attack, died, bringing the death toll to four.
Soldiers serving with the Special Task Force on Jos crisis on Thursday opened fire on youth who blocked a road in Bokkos in protest of the killing of a monarch and a night attack there Wednesday.
Residents said there is tension in Bokkos town, as many have fled the area to seek refuge elsewhere. The weekly Thursday market in the town could not open due to the crisis.
The military special task force imposed a 24-hour curfew on the town.
A spokesperson for the STF, Ikedichi Iweha, denied that soldiers killed the youth. He however confirmed the death of three of the youth who barricaded the routes.
Mr. Iweha, a captain in the Nigeria Army, told PREMIUM TIMES via phone that the youth were about to lynch some persons they suspected of being responsible for the killings, when soldiers intervened.
He said the youth shot at soldiers, injuring some of them.
“Our troops didn’t open fire aiming at anyone, they shot in the air to arrest an ugly situation. They youth were about to lynch some persons, our troops intervened; and the rampaging youth opened fire on our men and injured personnel. Three of the protesting youth were found dead, but not as a result of gun shot from our troop,” he said.
Mr. Iweha however said the situation had been brought under control, as officers have taken over Bokkos town.
Plateau State had enjoyed relative calm in recent months after years of ethno-religious conflict that claimed the lives of thousands.
The latest spell of violence began on Monday afternoon when unknown gunmen ambushed and killed Lazarus Agaei, a first class traditional ruler and the Saf Ron Kurele, alongside his wife, son and a police guard.
On Wednesday night, unknown assailants reportedly destroyed homes and attacked residents of the area.
In protest, youth barricaded roads leading to the area on Thursday morning, and blocked the convoy of the police commissioner of Plateau State, Adekunle Oladunjoye. Mr. Oladunjoye was later allowed in.
Lawmakers, traditional and political leaders from the area gathered Thursday morning at the late monarch’s palace to meet the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, Habila Joshak, and mourn the slain chief.
Joshua Dariye, a former governor and serving senator representing the district at the National Assembly, broke down into tears after observing a minute silence.
Mr. Dariye pleaded with the family and locals to be calm and allow security agencies investigate the killings.
“Two wrongs cannot make a right, let’s live peacefully, our paramount ruler is no more, no matter the amount of agitations we make, it will not return him to life,” he said. “But we demand that the IG sends a high-powered delegation of police expert to investigate the incident and bring perpetrators to book.”
The police DIG, Mr. Joshak, drafted from Abuja to lead the investigation, said justice will be done.
“No matter how long it will take, we must fish out the killers of the traditional ruler,” he said. “Vengeance is of God, let all of us be law-abiding, though this is a painful death, you can see the senator in tears.”
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt more details about how the traditional ruler was murdered.
One of his sons, Cyprian Agaei, who survived the attack, told journalists that his father was strangled to death.
He said the assailants were masked.
“I cannot ascertain the identity of the killers, but I saw two persons, and masked, they didn’t shoot at my father, they shot the driver, but they strangled the paramount ruler to death, I believe it is a planned attack,” he said.