Six children have been killed in an attack on a community in Anambra State.
The children, all under 10 years old, were killed during an attack on a Fulani community in Oba, Idemili Local Government Area.
Residents said the attack was carried out by suspected members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB), amid escalating ethnic tensions in Nigeria.
Members of the community told PREMIUM TIMES they would not retaliate as they are trusting the security authorities to deliver justice to them, with the host community and state assuring of solidarity and assistance.
The attack happened on Tuesday evening but the facts were slow to emerge and PREMIUM TIMES just confirmed on Thursday evening.
Horrific photographs obtained by PREMIUM TIMES show the deceased children savagely macheted and one said to be just one-year-old, burnt.
Also, the background of the photographs shows razed homes. The impact of the attack suggests children were targeted or that they were only killed because elderly members of the community were absent at the time attack was carried out.
PREMIUM TIMES also obtained a short video showing the remains of the children wrapped in white cloths ready after they were washed and before internment according to Islamic tradition.
Following the attack, the community is now displaced.
Surviving victims are now taking refuge inside the army barrack in Onitsha, the patriarch of the community, Dogo Isa, army sources, and Mahmud Imam, who has seen the displaced persons, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday.
All the six children were buried inside the barrack, Mr Isa said, a claim corroborated by other sources. Mr Isa said the oldest of the slain children was six-year-old.
The police spokesperson for the state, Haruna Mohammed, said he was not aware of the attack.
An IPOB lawyer and spokesperson, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, said, “I am not aware of this one” when contacted on Thursday.
Names of the slain children as disclosed by Mr Isa are:
1. Nasiru Laminu, two years old;
2. Sirajo Ali, two years old;
3. Zainabu Mutmeru, four years old;
4. Aminu, two years old;
5. Mairo, six years old; and
6. Maryam, one year old.
Mr Isa said nothing happened to their cattle because it was in the evening when the animals had been herded to the stream.
He said he has been in Anambra State for 43 years but, on Monday, he was called by a person, who asked him and his extended family to leave the community.
“The person told me I should take my family to the north because the Fulani are no longer wanted in Igboland,” Mr Isa said. “They said they gave me one day to leave. But around 5 p.m., on Tuesday, I was called that I should come home. Then, I met six of our children dead and my house razed. All of us had to leave to stay in the barrack here.
“I have begged the soldiers to help me get the man that called me to take him to the police.”
Led by a fugitive, Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB is agitating for the secession of the Igbo from Nigeria, decades after late Odumegwu Ojukwu first mobilised the nationalist aspirations of the ethnic group to break away, resulting in a 30-month civil war (1967-1970) that led to the death of millions.
With years of bad governance and the government’s failure to address the challenge of national integration, secessionist agitations were reawakened by IPOB, leveraging people’s anger against the state.
In 2017, Nigeria proscribed IPOB and declared it a terrorist organisation amid a major standoff with the army in Abia, the home state of Mr Kanu.
The group has rejected being labelled a terrorist organisation saying its actions and demand for secession are peaceful. But it recently established a formation called Eastern Security Network, which it said would protect the Igboland “against Fulani herders.”
Criminal herders have been involved for a long time in deadly conflicts with farmers across the country – and recently in cases of abductions for ransom.
But communities in southern Nigeria have recently declared readiness to resort to self-help against the Fulani herders, bringing even the innocent among them at risk of indiscriminate violence.
The IPOB-linked Eastern Security Network is currently the target of a “not-so full military operation” in Orlu axis of Imo State.
In Oba area, fear of a Fulani reprisal has risen, a local police source said.
Mr Isa said the host community leaders had been calling to sympathise with him and assure him of solidarity. He said he should let security authorities handle the matter instead of resorting to self-help.
PREMIUM TIMES could not speak with any of the local leaders but a soldier corroborated Mr Isa’s account.
“They said they heard that some Fulani were coming to attack but I have told them that it is not true and no Fulani will attack them in retaliation but they should help us find the person that called me and those that attacked us,” Mr Isa said.
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