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•Photo: Masked members of Boko Haram
•Nine killed, 30 houses razed in Nasarawa
•Gunmen kill three in Plateau
•Religious crisis politically motivated –Jonathan
By Joe Nwankwo (Abuja), Onoja Audu (Jos), Praise Sakera (Lafia) and Abdulkareem Haruna (Maiduguri)
Eighteen civilians, including three infants, were killed by suspected Boko Haram members between Wednesday and Thursday in Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
Some of the victims were slaughtered while others were shot dead.
These actrocities were committed just as President Goodluck Jonathan declared on Thursday that most of the religious crises in the country were politically motivated.
Nine persons were in the early hours of Wednesday found dead with their throats slit near a popular cattle market in the heart of Maiduguri.
Residents of Kasuwan Shanu, the area where the cattle market is located, said the assailants used their knives freely on throats of their victims.
An eyewitness, Yakubu Isa, told journalists that the Wednesday killing of civilians took place at about at 2.30 a.m.
“The gunmen actually did not use their guns in the killings, instead they used knives and cutlasses in slitting the throats of nine residents of Shokari to probably avoid attracting the JTF soldiers in the area,” said Isa.
Spokesman of Borno State Police Command, Gideon Jibrin, confirmed on phone that “there were attacks and killings in the outskirts of Maiduguri in one Shokari ward on the Maiduguri-Gambouru road, by assailants suspected to be Boko Haram gunmen.”
In the same manner the suspected assailants at Jiddari-Polo area of Maiduguri killed three children, aged 5, 7 and 12 years respectively.
Residents in the area said the three kids, identified as children of a policeman, were slaughtered while their mother hid behind the house listening to the groans of her children as they were killed.
Their father, one Aduju Zubairu, was not around at the time the killers arrived.
A family member told journalists that “the attack took place at about 1.50 a.m. when the men forcefully broke the main gate where they violently woke up the three children while the mother who heard the noise at the gate went into hiding.
“When the men searched and found no adult, they picked up the children who at that time were sleeping and slaughtered them before leaving.
“It was the wailing of the mother who came out and found her kids in the pool of blood that woke us all up.”
At about 7.00 a.m., six young men were also gunned down at Lawan Bukar area when they tried to round up some Boko Haram members who invaded the area.
A top security officer who confirmed all the killings to Daily Independent said “the six brave gunmen thought they could overpower the two Boko Haram gunmen but the latter unfortunately opened fire on them and got six of them killed.”
Police Public Relations Officer, Gabriel Jubrin, told journalists that the incident was being investigated.
Also, nine persons were feared killed, among them a seven-year-old boy and a District Head, and about 30 houses burnt in a renewed clash between the Koro and Eggon militias in the Obi Local Government area of Nasarawa State.
The suspected militias fought, armed with sophisticated weapons, on Wednesday.
But the police confirmed that only five persons died in the clash.
State Deputy Governor, Damishe Luka Barau, was at the scene of the tragedy on Thursday in company of newsmen.
The homes of a former legislator in the state, Obed Joseph; a former Chairman of Jenkwe Development Area, Musa Aloko; and the palace of the ‘Zhe Migili’, Ayuba Agwadu, were completely razed by the attackers.
The Deputy Governor, who condemned the attack, described the killings as senseless and barbaric, assuring that the state government will soon come out with a position on the crisis.
Daily Independent gathered that the feud started at about 8.00 a.m. on Wednesday.
The number of the injured could not be ascertained as at press time on Thursday.
It was further learnt that the crisis was sparked off by a motorcycle believed to have been stolen by some unidentified youths who allegedly ran to Gwadanye, a Koro settlement that has an outstanding love-hate relationship with the people of Angwan Yakubu.
The said motorcycle was allegedly stolen from Angwan Yakubu on Monday.
Efforts by the villagers to fish out the culprits in Gwadanye resulted in the fracas.
The constituency office of the Deputy Speaker, Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Elisha Agwadu, was among the houses that were razed down during the fracas.
The incident prevented free flow of traffic along Lafia-Makurdi highway, as the militants blocked the road.
Nasarawa state Commissioner of Police, Abayomi Akeremale, confirmed that five people were killed.
The police commissioner who spoke on phone, however, noted that the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police Zone 4, Makurdi, Michael Zuokumor, was on ground.
Another report from Jos said at least three people were shot dead on Wednesday night by unknown gunmen in Sho village in the Barkinladi Local Government area and Rankebot village in the Riyom Local Government of Plateau State.
Daily Independent findings revealed that the victims were killed in two separate incidents.
A resident of one of the villages told Daily Independent on Thursday in Jos that efforts were being made to mop up guns in the neighborhoods in the two local government council areas.
It was also learnt that a similar incident occurred at Rankebot village at about 5.30 p.m. where a farmer working on his farm was shot at close range by some gunmen.
Spokesman of the Special Task Force (STF) on Jos crisis, Salisu Mustapha, confirmed the two incidents to newsmen in Jos.
Meanwhile, speaking at the launch of a programme to encourage religious harmony between Christians and Mulims organised by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Jonathan noted that young people in the country were being seduced by false prophets and led into the path of violence and hatred.
He advised religious leaders to ensure that religion was neither misused nor abused to justify violence.
In a brief remark delivered on his behalf by Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Amah Pepple, at the event, the President said: “Inter-religious dialogue is already playing an important role in our society.”
“The Federal Government continues to promote religious harmony by constantly engaging the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, jointly chaired by the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Sultan of Sokoto.
“While progress on this front is satisfactory, it must be pointed out that some of the religious tensions in the country are politically motivated.
“We must now use both platforms to call on all believers to reject religiously anchored violence, advance tolerance, and promote mutual understanding.”
Jonathon also emphasised the imperatives of dialogue as part of efforts to create peace and advance development.
Founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said Nigerian politicians had to choose whether they wanted to be leaders or politicians.
He pointed out that leadership was required to tackle the challenges facing the country.
“My foundation and I are deeply committed to addressing the challenges of religious reconciliation in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, understanding and respecting different faiths is central to securing sustainable peace, particularly where those who seek to misuse religion for violent ends aim to destroy it.
He said the foundation would be working with the Archbishop of Canterbury Designate, Justin Welby, towards healing the rifts and divisions among faiths in Nigeria to bring unity and peaceful co-existence to the Nigerian people.
Also speaking at the event, President of the Chrisstian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor, while thanking Blair for the initiative, said the solution to religious violence lies with Nigerians.
He believes that there is no alternative to dialogue to resolve the crisis.
In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto called on Nigerians to embrace peace. He noted that those who engaged in religious violence were in the minority, adding that majority of Nigerians were peace loving and non-violent.
While expressing confidence in the ability of Nigerians to resolve crises in the country, he appealed to all Nigerians to choose peace.
In his contribution, an Anglican Primate, Reverend Nicholas Okoh, said religion had become a victim in the hands of political predators.
He said religion had been misused and abused by politicians, adding that the greatest task before religious leaders was how to rescue religion from the hands of politicians.
“We must bring confidence back into religion. But beyond that, government must address the problem of unemployment, insecurity, and hunger.
“It is a shame that despite availability of fertile land across the country, Nigeria depends heavily on food importation.”
Also speaking, Archbishop of Canterbury Designate, Justin Welby, who said he had visited Nigeria for 75 times, added that the Tony Blair Faith Foundation would help to motivate people to ensure peaceful co-existence in Nigeria.