The Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) in Plateau State yesterday arrested 12 suspects over the killings at Rukuba Road, Jos North local government area of the state.
The media officer of the task force, Maj. Ishaku Takwa, disclosed this in a statement.
Gunmen early yesterday attacked a convoy of five buses, killed 22 persons and injured 14 others.
“This morning, our troops swiftly responded to distress calls that suspected hoodlums blocked a junction along Rukuba Road in Jos North and attacked some commuters.
“Troops immediately mobilised to the scene and restored normalcy.
“Unfortunately, some persons lost their lives in the unfortunate incident, while others with varying degree of injuries have been evacuated to a medical facility for care.
“So far, 12 suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident and troops are on the trail of others, who took part in the heinous act. Those arrested are currently in custody for interrogation,” he said.
Takwa said the commander of the task force, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Ali, urged members of the public to volunteer credible information that would lead to the arrest of other suspects currently at large.
He said the commander also appealed to residents of the area to be calm, law abiding and continue with their lawful activities without any fear of intimidation.
Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has called for calm over the killings. Some of the victims are believed to be indigenes of Ondo State.
Akeredolu in a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Olabode Olatunde, warned against reprisal, saying, “From the report I received from my brother, the governor in Plateau, the incident was a case of mistaken identity. The victims, according to preliminary reports, took a route where a crisis between Muslims and northern Christians had ensued for some time, and they may have been possibly mistaken for aggressors. Accordingly, either of the two feuding groups in the area could be responsible in this regard.”
While calling for calm among the people of the state, Akeredolu said nobody should take the law into their hands and urged the people to refrain from any hasty colouration of the incident.
The Presidency condemned the attack and expressed regrets over the killings.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said it was widely known that Plateau State had been one of the states affected by herder-farmer clashes, which have, in a significant way, been curtailed following the intense peace-building efforts of the administration of Governor Simon Lalong.
He noted however that this was not an agriculturalist-on-pastoralist confrontation – but rather a direct, brazen and wickedly motivated attack on members of a community exercising their rights to travel freely and to follow the faith of their choosing.
With the evident preparedness of their attackers, Shehu said it was clear this was a well-conceived and prearranged assault on a known target, location and religious persuasion of the travelers not an opportunist ambush.
“The Presidency offers condolences to the families of the victims and continues to liaise closely with the local authorities – including security, the police, and governmental agencies,” the statement said.
“The Presidency stands steadfast with both Christians and Muslims at this time in condemnation of this latest attack and expects and insists that justice is swiftly – but fairly – delivered to the perpetrators.
“Make no mistake about it: in line with my commitment to protect all Nigerians, I have ordered our security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of this gruesome massacre of innocent travellers and bring them to justice,” President Buhari said.
The Presidency commended efforts by the Governors of Plateau, Bauchi and Ondo; the Sultan of Sokoto His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar III and Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi as well as a number of notable Christian and Muslim leaders as they intensify efforts to calm down the situation.
The killings yesterday followed an outbreak of fresh violence along that axis of the city.
LEADERSHIP Sunday counted about 17 corpses conveyed in two Hilux vans from the troubled spot to the Plateau Specialist Hospital mortuary.
The police in a statement issued by the spokesman, ASP Gabriel Ugbah, said 22 persons were killed and 14 were injured in the attack.
At the time of filing this report, soldiers drafted from the Special Task Force (STF) had restored order and stepped up patrol, amid palpable fears and tension.
Our correspondent recalled that the Irigwe youths had repeatedly announced that they were conveying the corpses of their slain members for burial in Bassa. They had set out in a convoy with security for the burial on Saturday morning when violence broke out along the way at Rukuba Road.
Governor Simon Lalong condemned the killings, especially as it involved innocent commuters, and immediately directed security agencies to swiftly identify and arrest the perpetrators.
A statement signed by Simon Makut Macham, the director of press and public affairs, said Lalong warned trouble makers to desist as the government would not allow lawlessness.
He reminded the citizens to remain vigilant and security conscious in reporting suspicious persons and behaviours within their domains to enable law enforcement agencies respond appropriately.
Lalong also directed the Secretary to the Government of the State, Prof. Danladi Atu to visit the areas and ascertain the situation as well as ensure that those injured receive adequate medical attention.
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello expressed sympathy with families of the victims, the government and people of Plateau State over the attack.
While assuring the people of government’s effort to protect all citizens, Bello, who is the chairman, Committee on Security, Northern Governors’ Forum, described the attack as ‘inhuman, barbaric and unwarranted;’ saying ‘the cause of such mindless attack must be investigated with perpetrators brought to book.’
Bello in a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Mr Muhammed Onogwu, called for calm among the people of the state, urging them to refrain from reprisals and acts that could endanger the peace on the Plateau.