Details have begun to emerge on how over 40 vigilantes were killed and dozens injured in an encounter with terrorists at Karal forest in Gassol Local Government Area of Taraba State last Tuesday.
A local resident, Mallam Nasiru Umar, told newsmen that the terrorists had been camping in the forest for the past months, but only started kidnapping people a few weeks ago.
“We are aware of their presence in the forest and I want to believe security agencies too are aware of their camp in the area.
“Just recently, they kidnapped two Fulanis; one from Maraban Gassol, the other from Tella, and a huge amount of money was paid to them as ransom before they were released.
“Following this development, the local vigilantes mobilised to flush them out of the forest, but unfortunately, the informants of the terrorists alerted them and they quickly mobilised and ambushed the vigilantes, killing no fewer than 40 of them,” Nasiru said.
Another resident added that gun battle between the terrorists and the vigilantes forced residents of Karal, Badija and Karbawi to flee the area to Mutum-Biyu for safety.
On his part, a former chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the State, Alhaji Mafindi Danburam confirmed the incident to journalists but said the casualty figure could not be ascertained.
According to him, the vigilante group of Fulani disciplinary committee and that of Pulako acting on intelligence that there was a camp in Karal area of Gassol LG housing terrorists mobilised to flush them out but were ambushed and many of them were killed and scores injured.
He said, “The actual number of victims is yet to be ascertained as many people are still missing. The mission of the Fulani Vigilantes and Pulako was to flush out the criminals from their hideout in the Karal forest. They have succeeded in flushing criminals in two camps in Bali Local Government Area and they were on a similar mission to flush out those terrorists in Gassol.
“We blame this unfortunate incident on the lack of support from the state government. The Commissioner of Police in the State has given the vigilantes a Hilux van and four personnel attached to them, but the police were in Kurmi for another assignment when the incident happened.
“We started this operation in August last year, but as I am speaking, we have not received any form of support from the state government. We have written several correspondences and sent text messages to the government without any response.
“If the government had supported our efforts and attached 10 policemen and soldiers to the vigilantes on patrol to flush out the criminals, the casualties would not have been that much.
“We want to call on the federal government to help us. These terrorists from Zamfara are now in Taraba State. They fought people in Kanan and Wase areas of Plateau and have now crossed to Taraba.
“We are appealing to the federal government because Fulanis are at the receiving end of these criminal activities. On a daily basis, our people are selling their cows and paying N20m, N25m as ransom in the bush.”
“Even the people living in town are not spared. These terrorists are mounting roadblocks and are kidnapping people for ransom.
“We are appealing to the federal government to assist security agencies and the vigilantes to flush out these terrorists. We will not allow Taraba to be like Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto Kebbi and Niger,” Danburam vowed.