Residents of an embattled town in Nigeria are bracing for another mass attack by radicalized militias that have threatened to kill the entire population. The threat came from a caller whose number was found on a cell phone dropped in the dirt during a night attack on Nov. 26 that massacred 10 unarmed residents in the Nigerian village of Te’egbe, located 18 miles west of Jos, Nigeria, the capital of Plateau state.
The threat was made to the leader of an armed neighborhood watch team who called numbers on the phone before surrendering it to local officials. The watch leader asked for his name to be withheld for fear of retaliation by terrorists or by the authorities themselves.
“We will still attack the main town of Miango during Christmas, and we will kill everybody, because the number we killed last time was not enough,” the caller said, according to the confidential source.
Miango is a town of 15,000 people surrounded by 20,000 people living in small farming villages.
The band of terrorists gave more than an hour’s notice to village residents and authorities through emailed warnings.
Most of the village’s approximately 500 residents fled after hearing warnings of a terrorist band approaching at 10:30 p.m. One family with elderly members stayed behind to care for them and were murdered by the terrorists, Nuhu Ngah, national spokesman of Miango Youth Development Association said in a statement.
“Ten lives were lost, out of which six were from the same family who were taking care of a sick senior citizen,” Ngah said.
“The attackers entered the village after two hours, 40 minutes of notice to the military,” said a witness who asked to not be identified for fear of reprisal.
“The attackers were dressed in black, holding sophisticated weapons, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [Allah is great],” another witness said.
Te’egbe is less than a mile from a military checkpoint.
Police have made no arrests or announced names of suspects since the attack that began at midnight and lasted until 2:00 a.m. the morning of Nov. 27. Police Spokesman Gabriel Ogaba declined to comment. At least 278 houses were burned and 57 food barns were destroyed. The so-called bandits didn’t steal any valuables.
The Nigerian government declared on Nov. 25 that some bandit gangs can be labeled terrorists.
“The Federal Government’s determination to crush banditry remains unwavering now that the Court has granted an application filed by his Office declaring bandits groups as terrorist organizations,” according to Attorney General of the Federation of Nigeria Abubakar Malami in a Nov. 25 statement made by his media spokesman.
Nigerian political leaders, including the Nigerian Senate and Kaduna state Gov. Nasir el-Rufai, have demanded for months that President Muhammadu Buhari formally declare the bandits laying waste to most of the states in the Northwest as terrorists.
Nigerian terrorism has been linked with groups affiliated with Islamic State of West Africa, or its precursor, Boko Haram, yet greater deaths in recent years are due to raids by gangs associated with the Fulani ethnicity, usually called “bandits.”
The expansion of armed banditry in Nigeria’s northwest claimed approximately 3,000 lives in 2020 and displaced more than 300,000 civilians in Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger and Kebbi, according to the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect. The death toll in Nigeria has made it the world’s second hardest hit by terrorism, after Afghanistan, according to the Global Terrorism Index for 2020.
The terrorist declaration will allow the government to seek more severe penalties, according to Nigerian experts on conflict. “It will correct the impression that they’re a harmless group of herders or freedom fighters,” Dr. Mansur I. Buhari, an academic and conflict reporter in Sokoto, told The Epoch Times. “It also would provide legal ground for tougher penalties.”
The attack in Te’egbe happened 10 days after the U.S. government removed Nigeria from a list of religious freedom violators known as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). Nigeria was first added to the CPC in December 2020 after an indictment by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The administration of President Joe Biden then ignored the recommendation from the USCIRF.
“Ten people were killed, and three survived gunshots. many houses were burnt,” said Ezekiel Bini, National President of Irigwe Youth Movement to The Epoch Times. “The attack is aimed to wipe out Irigwe Christians and make them homeless.”
“The attackers were many. They can be more than 200, dressed in black whereas others wore soldiers’ camouflage uniform,” said a neighborhood watchman who asked The Epoch Times for anonymity.
“The seven soldiers deployed at the military checkpoint didn’t fire their rifles at the Fulani. [The soldiers] all ran. And the watchmen group had to run because our guns were single-shot craft rifles.
“If only we have good guns or the soldiers had not run, we could have faced and killed some of the Fulani.”
Bini said, “Fulani militants attacked Te’egbe village for the second time.” In 2017, Fulani attacked the village, six Christians were killed and houses burnt. “The Nigeria government failed to help, yet International Christian Concern helped rebuild some of the houses,” Bini said. “Yet these same houses were burned again and their food barns burned.
“I lost my grandchildren, for the sake of Christ, said Sibi Gara in tears, lying in a hospital bed in Miango District.”
A Nigerian minister in the United States whose wife grew up in the village of Te’egbe denounced the government’s lax stance regarding waves of terrorist attacks in Plateau State.
“The killings in Plateau state and particularly in Bassa local government area have reached an alarming stage that calls for a change of approach by all Plateau people, since it is obvious that the federal government has abandoned us,” wrote Rev. John Pofi in a text to The Epoch Times.
“We have Operation Safe Haven in the state, the headquarters of the Third Division of the Nigerian Army in the area, and yet the killings have persisted while those who are saddled with the responsibility of curbing the situation stand and look.” As reported by the Epoch Times in August, a wave of terrorist attacks in the nearby villages of Jebbu Miango from July 29 to Aug. 2 claimed the lives of 72 unarmed citizens. No suspects have been arrested after those killings.