At Baba Yayok’s church on Sunday, Dec. 18, it was announced that there was a security threat in Malagum 1, his hometown. And after the service, news kept filtering in, that the community was facing imminent danger of a terror attack. This was when the locals took precautions – many, like Baba Yayok, 56, evacuated their families.
Long before darkness fell, security vans and armoured tanks cruised the environs and the locals breathed a sigh of relief. But they were soon to discover that this would not save them from the hundreds of gun-wielding youths who would storm their land.
Minutes before 11 that night, they “started hearing gunshots and shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar [God is great]!’” “This was when people started running helter-skelter,” Baba Yayok narrated. Some escaped, but others were not so lucky.
The attack would end at past midnight. Two communities, Malagum 1 and Sokwong, in the Kaura Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna were the main targets. Both are under Gworog (Hausa: Kagoro) chiefdom.
“Many houses were burnt and 28 people killed,” Baba Yayok, who is a civil servant, said. “In the other community, Sokwong, about 95 per cent of the houses there were burnt, if not 99. And they killed nine people there.”
Like in Malagum 1, there were also movements of security vehicles in Sokwong during the day.
How he escaped
Baba Yayok’s survival was nothing short of a miracle. He described it as “the grace of God.”
“I was right inside my bedroom when I heard these people saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ outside my house … and they entered my home. I left my bedroom and entered my daughter’s room. When they entered the parlour, they just went directly to my bedroom. They checked, they could not see me and they set the mattress on fire. They went out through the parlour, set the curtains and cushions on fire, and just left.”
The moment their footfalls receded, Baba Yayok dashed out of his daughter’s bedroom and hauled buckets of water until he quenched the fire. Then he sneaked out of his house. As he fled, he thanked God he had had the good sense to evacuate his entire family like many others.
Dogara (surname withheld), a hunter who lives in Fadan Kagoro, just a few kilometres away, began his story from Dec. 13 when two Malagum residents were shot dead in the bushes by terrorists. Their corpses were later discovered by the locals. They also got a warning from the terrorists that they planned to attack the following day.
The community decided to evacuate women and children. But there was no attack on Malagum 1 on that day. Instead, a phone call came from the intruders that seemed to reverberate through the entire land. They had taken a phone belonging to one of those they had already killed and used it to contact their families and friends.
“They called and said they were coming on Sunday, unfailingly,” Dogara told HumAngle. This was Dec. 18 – that night they killed over 20 persons in Malagum 1. “Those were the only dead bodies found at the time. The case of Malagum was much worse. A lot of youths were killed. They attacked around 11:30 p.m. at night.”
While the shelling was ongoing, Dogara, who was among those who had gotten a call because they were hunters, ran to the location. But they could not engage the intruders.
“We lay in the bushes, far from the area and watched how the attackers surrounded the village and kept shooting. They were young boys. They were more than 300 in number,” he explained.
The attackers divided themselves into groups at some point, with about 20 of them per house, guns blazing.
“Those shooting had other younger boys who reloaded their guns with bullets,” Dogara added. “There was no way we could engage them.”
People were in their homes sleeping when they came, Dogara continued. “They set many homes on fire with people inside. Those who ran out were cut down by bullets.”
In some houses, the gang looted foodstuffs, grabbed some poultry and also carted off cattle.
Absence or presence of security
When HumAngle contacted ASP Mohammed Jalige, the Kaduna State Police Command Public Relations Officer (PRO), he asked for some time to make an official comment. But there was none at the time this report was filed.
Farther away in Kukum, a village close to Fadan Kagoro, a resident, Japhet (surname withheld), claimed there were gunmen by day in military uniform around Malagum on Dec. 18.
“They asked about two communities, Malagum and another. This was around 2 p.m.,” he said. “When the man gave them descriptions, they entered the area.”
This was the same day that Baba Yayok said security personnel patrolled major roads around his neighbourhood.
Japhet is suspicious that the terrorists were the ones in military uniform asking questions. He added about the carnage that took place later that night: “I personally saw about 40 bodies buried. Many of them were burned inside their homes. There was one man who was on a tree when his brother was killed.”
All efforts to reach Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, the Nigerian Army spokesperson, by phone were unsuccessful.
This would not be the first time Southern Kaduna is experiencing terror attacks, particularly in Gworog (or Gworok). In the past, there have been what appears to be communal clashes, but in recent years, reports show a growing jihadi type of terror, the like carried out by Boko Haram or the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
A typical example is an incident on March 20, 2022, where terrorists had similarly sent a message that they were coming and kept their promise. Back then, the Gworog communities of Kanwai, Tsongai, and Adan were attacked.
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