Gunmen have killed dozens of civilians, mostly women and children, in Nigeria in a series of attacks across villages in the country’s central-eastern Plateau State. Nanzing Bani, a regional community leader, said on Sunday that the fatalities were caused when heavily-armed gunmen in military uniforms went on an indiscriminate shooting rampage in Kardarko and nearby villages on Saturday. “The soldiers were shooting indiscriminately,” media outlets quoted Bani as saying. He also estimated that the number of fatalities across the troubled region could surpass 100.
Local residents and witnesses say the assailants also set fire to a large number of houses and buildings in the area. The armed raids sent scores of local residents fleeing on foot from the targeted villages. Meanwhile, a report by Nigerian Vanguard newspaper has blamed the country’s anti-terrorist Special Task Force for carrying out the deadly raid against villagers, claiming that they were retaliating for a recent killing of four soldiers in the area. However, Ikedichi Iweha, the force’s spokesman strongly rejected the report and said soldiers have been shielding the local population against attacks by ethnic militants operating across the troubled region.
“Our mandate is to protect the people and that mandate has not changed,” the spokesman said. The Nigerian military had in the past been accused of attacking civilians in retaliation for the death of security personnel and soldiers. Various regions of Nigeria have been marred by militancy as well as ethnic and communal violence in recent years.