A freelance journalist who has reported on a surge of violent attacks by radicalized Muslims in Nigeria for CNA recently found himself caught in the middle of a firefight between government soldiers and armed militiamen.
“With hundreds of bullets flying over my head, and the whizzing gunfire whipping past my ears, lying flat on the ground and crawling on we were swarmed by more than 200 armed terrorists who were dressed in black,” Masara Kim, an independent reporter based in Jos, recounted in text messages to CNA.
The exchange of gunfire, which lasted about an hour, took place on May 16 in Mangu City in Central Nigeria’s Plateau State. The region in and around Plateau has seen a series of deadly attacks by armed Muslim militia in recent weeks, a sign of worsening instability in Nigeria.
“The terrorists were shooting and advancing forward in a suicide fashion, despite a fierce resistance by a team of 100-200 armed soldiers and policemen. They were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’” Kim reported.
“They fired thousands of shots at us — a horrifying experience,” Kim related.
Another eyewitness to the fighting that day was Solomon Mwantiri, a Jos-based lawyer and human rights advocate.
Mwantiri said as many as 1,000 armed militia fighters converged on Mangu City and surrounding villages and began burning houses. He told CNA that he arrived with a military convoy of 15 trucks at 11 a.m.
“The terrorists retreated to a small valley beneath the hilltop village called Jwak Maitumbi, where we saw approximately 500 fighters who were joined by reinforcements arriving by motorbike,” Kim said.
“By late afternoon Tuesday [May 16] the convoy of trucks retreated after the soldiers ran low on ammunition,” Kim related.
“There were more than 50 corpses found in area villages on Tuesday but many are believed to be still unrecovered in busy areas,” he wrote.
“By Friday, May 20, the death count stood at over 200, however many more are expected to be found, and the mass burials are continuing,” Kim said. “According to what security forces have told us, there are still 21 villages around Mangu that are occupied by terrorists,” Kim said.
The Plateau police have arrested seven suspects in the attacks, the Associated Press reported. “It was a situation of sporadic shooting across a vast area of different villages,” Alabo Alfred, a police spokesman, told AP.