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Nigerian military plans major operation after Jos attacks

Nigerian military will launch sweeping operations in villages around the city of Jos, where suspected insurgents responsible for last weekend's deadly ethnic attacks are thought to be hiding.

By Ibrahim GarbaCorrespondent / July 16, 2012



Kano, Nigeria

Nigeria’s military appears ready to begin a major operation to raid suspected hideouts across the central Nigerian Plateau State, where insurgents responsible for last week’s violence are thought to be based.

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More than 200 people were killed in sectarian attacks between mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian Birom villagers near the city of Jos over the weekend of July 9. Police blamed the violence on tribal differences over land, but an Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attacks, including the wholesale massacre of 63 Christian parishioners taking refuge in a preacher’s house.

In a statement by the director of defense information, Col. Mohammed Yusuf, said that Nigerian Armed Forces were planning a full-scale military operation, called “operation sweep and search,” to raid the villages of Mahanga, Kakuruk, Kuzen, Maseh, and Shong 2. Those are places that serve as hideouts for criminals, Col. Yusuf said, adding that civilians living in those areas should leave, since there might be “collateral damage” to innocent villagers.

“This temporary relocation is for a while and the villagers will relocate when the operation is completed,” Yusuf’s statement said.
  
 To avoid “collateral damage,” he said, inhabitants of villages “where these criminal elements use as hideouts should vacate to a safer place where an arrangement is being made for them by the State government.” Groups representing Fulani herdsmen, however, urged villagers to stay put and pray, a sign that clashes with the military may be imminent.

 Nigeria’s military – which has ruled Nigeria directly following five separate coups and “caretaker” governments since independence in 1960 – has never shied from taking action in internal security matters, and particularly against any group that challenges the authority of the Nigerian state.

Like the military’s response to the Biafran separatist movement in the late 1960s, and the Niger Delta insurgence of 2006 until the present, the Nigerian Armed Forces reaction to Boko Haram – an Islamist group that aims to replace the Nigerian government with Islamic sharia law – has been accused of substantial human rights abuses and excessive force, but Nigerian officials say that harsh methods are justified against violent groups such as Boko Haram.

‘Possible genocide’

Mohammed Abdullahi, secretary for the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association – which often speaks for the disparate Fulani-speaking community – urged villagers to disregard the military order, adding that association members would not move an inch from their villages.

“We are calling on the Federal government, United Nations, and other Human Rights bodies to put eyes on the possible genocide being planned by the soldiers," the group said in a statement. "If this is allowed to happen,” the Fulani group warned, “nobody should blame the Fulani man for taking every measure necessary to defend himself."
  
 Ardo Isa Jafaru, an ethnic Fulani from the Jos area, blamed powerful ethnic Fulani politicians, such as National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, and religious figures such as Sultan Saad Abubakar from failing to stand up for the Fulani people in the current standoff.  

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