Scores of individuals believed to be bandits were reportedly killed on Saturday in a clash with soldiers in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State.
The incident occurred as the alleged criminals were en route to attack an unidentified village around 7:30 am, following the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew in the council area. Soldiers intercepted them along the Gindiri Road, resulting in the deaths of many of the individuals.
Marcus Artu, the Chairman of Mangu Local Government Area, confirmed the incident to PUNCH Online in Jos, the state capital. However, he couldn’t provide specific casualty figures.
Artu stated, “What I was told is that some attackers came out in large numbers this morning (Saturday) and wanted to attack the people, but the soldiers repelled them.”
Chairman Marcus Artu expressed uncertainty about the specific number of attackers killed by the soldiers, stating, “As for the number of attackers killed by the soldiers, I cannot tell you because I don’t have the information yet.”
However, a resident of Mangu, Philip Jato, shared with a correspondent that many of the alleged bandits were indeed killed during the confrontation, and several others were apprehended by the security forces.
Jato conveyed, “I can confirm to you that several of the gunmen were killed by the soldiers. Some of them were also taken into custody, but the situation is calm now, although people are still living in fear.”
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, has called on the troops of Operation Hakorin Damisa to swiftly address the security challenges in the state.
During an interview with journalists on Saturday during his tour of the troubled Council Area, Lagbaja expressed confidence in the capabilities of his troops to put an end to the ongoing insecurity, especially in Mangu Local Government.
Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja stated, “After I flagged off Operation Hakorin Damisa in Mangu, the charge I gave you was to end all forms of criminality, and even after then, I have had to come back in December last year.
“In the past one week, we have experienced another round of violence here in Mangu, and I have had a chat with your commander on the security situation on the Plateau, especially in Mangu.”
Lagbaja acknowledged the complexity of the situation due to the introduction of ethnic and religious dimensions but emphasised that the troops must strictly adhere to the rules of engagement.
He reiterated, “As soldiers, your focus is on one thing: stamp out the criminality and violence once and for all, as I will not come back here except to go to the field myself.”
Addressing allegations of his men being complicit and taking sides, he clarified that investigations had been conducted and the claims were found to be baseless and lacking any element of truth.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) clarified, “These allegations are unsubstantiated and have been found not to be true. In fact, even the governor whom I spoke with earlier confirmed this despite initially holding a contrary view.”
He further stated, “Some of our men are from Mangu Local Government and would not have witnessed such incidents and kept quiet.”
In addition to addressing the allegations, the Army chief conducted an on-the-spot assessment of damaged churches and property.
He urged members of the public to contact the troops and military emergency lines whenever necessary and encouraged them to provide direct feedback and reports, as has been done in the past.