Nigerian Soldiers Watch as Terrorists Massacre 18 Villagers

By Masara Kim
Masara Kim
Masara Kim
and Lawrence Zongo
Lawrence Zongo
Lawrence Zongo
Lawrence Zongo is a journalist based in Jos, Nigeria. Specialized in reporting war crimes, terrorism, and human rights violations and abuses.
January 21, 2022Updated: February 3, 2022

The scene of the attack was familiar to traumatized villagers in Ancha of Bassa County in Nigeria’s Plateau state on the cold evening of Jan. 11.

A unit of 30 well-armed Nigerian soldiers was stationed in an abandoned school building inside the settlement.

The 30 soldiers had assault rifles, an armored personnel carrier, and two trucks.

Yet to the shock of 400 local residents scattering at the sound of terrorist gunfire at midnight, the unit of soldiers calmly held their position and never fired their weapons as terrorists murdered 18 local people, including women, teenagers, and infants.

“The attack started some minutes after 12 a.m., leading to the death of 18 people,” Stephen Andy Igmala, chairman of Bassa County, told The Epoch Times. “Seven people were injured, and 107 houses were burnt down.”

Epoch Times Photo
A civilian guard straps a homemade gun to his back in Ancha, Nigeria, on Jan. 12, 2022. (Masara Kim/The Epoch Times)

The terrorists were chanting “Allahu’akbar” (God is great), according to survivors. They burned houses and food barns, incinerating children and the aged who couldn’t flee, all under the watchful eye of the soldiers.

A few local watchmen returned fire with their single-shot rifles and shotguns, providing some cover to buy time for women and children to run out of the village.

Two of the watchmen were among the fatalities discovered after the attack ended at 2:30 a.m., according to witnesses who attended the mass burial on Jan. 12.

“It was like a rain of gunfire,” said John Rivi, leader of a neighborhood watch team, in a noon meeting with local officials attended by The Epoch Times in Ancha hours after the attack.

“They were more than 500. They surrounded the entire village before we knew it. They split themselves into groups. Some went south, some went west, some went east. Others took over the roads for possible evacuees.”

The attackers spoke Fulani dialect (the language of the ethnicity often linked to such raids), according to Rivi, who said some of the attackers were known by the victims.

The assault began when civilian watchers guarding the village with slingshots and locally made short guns were overpowered on a northern corner of the town, Rivi said.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman carries a bucket of water to quench a fire in her burned house in Ancha, Nigeria, on Jan. 12, 2022. (Masara Kim/The Epoch Times)

Some of the attackers were men who lived locally and knew the residents well.

“We know them,” said Rivi. “One of them we know very well escorted a woman out of the village with her three kids before returning to kill her husband, father-in-law, and eldest son.”

Mary Bulus, 38, told The Epoch Times that she was led out of the town by a former Fulani business partner when he led a gang to attack her family residence.

“He came with five other Fulani,” Bulus said. “Some held their guns on the faces of my husband and father-in-law. My eldest son of 12 was also there.

“He told me to follow him if I wanted to live. He said I should not worry, that nothing will happen to any of my family members.

“He escorted me and my three little children to the far bushes and went back to the village, and I was told that he was the one that killed my family members in the house.”

Call for General Ali to Step Down

The military spokesman for the army’s special task force claims the army responded to a call for help but arrived too late to engage with the terrorists.

Major Ishaku Takwa didn’t respond to inquiries from The Epoch Times, but he apparently gave a statement to a newspaper reporter from This Day Live, in Jos, who quoted him saying the troops responded “swiftly” after receiving distress calls.

“On reaching the community, the attackers had fled the village. Houses were destroyed and some villagers lost their lives during the attack,” Takwa said, according to

The same claim was reprinted in Vanguard Newspaper but scrubbed out in a later edition.

Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria, has called for the resignation of the Nigerian general responsible for security in Plateau state.

“Major Gen. I.S. Ali, commander of Operation Safe Haven, needs to be replaced and prosecuted for crimes against humanity,” he told The Epoch Times in a text.

“Ali’s negligence and inability to stop the massacre of innocent civilians needs to be investigated.

“This incident is among a score of such incidents that have occurred under his command since January 2021. There are reports that when security forces did arrive, they stood down and watched the massacre of more than 25 civilians.”

The attackers included local Fulani residents supported by hired mercenaries, likely bandits fleeing military airstrikes in Nigeria’s northwest, said Istifanus Gyang, the Nigerian deputy senate committee chairman on defense.

“For over two decades now, there are people that have displaced our communities, that have taken over farmlands, taken over the ancestral homes of people, and they have settled here comfortably,” Gyang said.

“It is these people that have settled here, displacing people violently, taking over farmlands, that are being reinforced by others that are coming from elsewhere. They keep coming, and the numbers are enlarging by the day.”

Military Refused to Defend Us: Community Leaders

The attack lasted more than two hours without intervention by the military, according to tribal leader Davidson Malison.

“From 12 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., [the attack went] undistracted and unchecked,” Malison, national publicity secretary of the Irigwe Development Association, said in a statement.

A 30-man military task force in the town withheld fire, guarding their vehicles and equipment during the raid, Rivi said.

“We first saw flashlights approaching the village from the nearby bushes and notified the military. The guard commander took some of his men, and together with some of us youths, we moved in the direction of the flashlights but suddenly heard gunshots behind us,” Rivi told the officials.

“The guard commander was alone trying to fight back. The others only took positions to protect their vehicles while the Fulani killed and burned our houses.”

Ezekiel Bini, youth leader of the Irigwe tribe, confirmed to The Epoch Times that the soldiers in Ancha stood down.

“They were here when it happened, yet they did not do anything,” Bini said.

Advance Warning Ignored

A day prior to the attack, the development association observed armed Fulani militias in the surrounding bushes close to the town and reported them to the local community.

“The situation around the [area] is tense as the marauders have been spotted gathering in an attempt to unleash another terror,” said Danjuma Auta, secretary general of the association, in a statement on Jan. 10.

The alarm followed the killing of a man who was working with his wife on a nearby farm on the same evening that three people were killed in an ambush in nearby Riyom County.

The tensions persisted in the town through the evening of Jan. 11, with rumors of a planned attack widely circulating on social media.

Sen. Istifanus Gyang, who represents Bassa County, has questioned the military’s role in the attack.

“I am at a loss that this thing happened and the needed response which should have been very massive,” Gyang said.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, in a press statement issued by his spokesman Garba Shehu on Jan. 13, said the attack was retaliatory.

Buhari called on the plateau inter-religious council to “do everything possible to commit to the peace agreement and prevent it from falling apart.”

“Every group taking the law into their hands claims to be retaliating. As a society, there is no place for this sort of violence. This is unacceptable,” he said.

There are no known reports in Nigerian media in recent years of reprisal raids against Fulani residents of Bassa County carried out by armed Christian gangs.

Related Topics