At least 15 people were yesterday killed by unknown gunmen in the latest sectarian crisis that bedevils the southern part of Taraba state.
The incident occurred in the early hours of the day at Gindin Dorowa town in Wukari local government area barely 24 hours after Acting Governor Garba Umar had visited the area and appealed for peace and harmony among people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.
The gunmen invaded the ancient town and opened fire at about 1:30 a.m. when Christians were celebrating the Night of Light to commemorate the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead.
A source said that as people fled, the attackers set their houses ablaze and destroyed property like churches, thus giving the crisis a religious outlook.
According to the source, when the CRCN church caught fire the youths of the town mobilised and destroyed some mosques.
An eye witness told Blueprint that the attackers came from different directions outside the town and kept shooting till daybreak.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, ASP Joseph Kwaji, said not even the arrival of Mobile policemen from the police headquarters could stop the shootings.
The police command, according to him, received a reinforcement of officers from Mopol 14 unit in Yola, capital of neighbouring Adamawa state.
He said the number of casualties was yet to be ascertained when our correspondent called but assured that his men were working round the clock to end the crisis.
Kwaji promised that whenever any information on the death toll became available he would release it to the media.
The acting governor was in Wukari and Ibi local government areas on Friday to inspect the extent of damage caused by the recent spate of crises and appealed for calm.
He argued that people must live in peace with one another, no matter their differences.
Both Umar and the chairman of the state Council of Chiefs, the Aku Uka Wukari, Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masaibi, have condemned the crisis and insisted that people must embrace peace and live together.
The message appeared to fall on deaf ears as yesterday’s attack occurred about 24 hours later.
Umar described the attack as unfortunate, barbaric and unacceptable, promising that his government would do everything possible to protect lives and property of the citizenry.
He vowed that the perpetrators of the attack would be brought to book.
Speaking through his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Aaron Artimas, the acting governor said the government would not fold its arms and watch citizens die in the hands of heartless people.
He appealed to the people to remain calm as the government had taken control of the matter and would deal with it decisively.
For the last one week southern Taraba has virtually become a theatre of war.
The sectarian violence started from Ibi and Takum and has now moved to Wukari.
Both the police and the Red Cross have given conflicting figures of the number of deaths; while the police said 24 people died, the Red Cross mentioned 48 people.
Some sources, however, said the death toll was higher than that because some people did not want their relations to be given a massive burial and therefore hurriedly buried their dead without the knowledge of the Red Cross and the police.
The 24-hour curfew imposed on Ibi and Wukari has now been extended to Gindin Dorowa and Bantaji towns.