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Boko Haram: The days gunmen struck in Gombe

By JOHN BULUS

Peace has taken flight from Gombe, forcing people, especially Christians from the southern part of the country, to leave the town. Those who have the guts to stay behind are in perpetual fear. Some who travelled  for Xmas and New Year holidays are refusing  to come back. Shops owned by most of the southerners have remained under lock and keys.

Gombe, prior to now, qualified for an award as  the most peaceful state in the north east. No doubt it is a Muslim dominated state, but,  to most people, there is an appreciable level of religious harmony and tolerance. This is in the light of the fact that there exists in most families, biologically related siblings of same parents who are Muslims and Christians.

When, in 2009, the Jos crises peaked, Gombe State became a safe haven for most displaced people.. Again, when Bauchi, another  neighbouring  state, boiled in similar circumstance, Gombe became a destination for safety for victims. In 2009, when Boko Haram evidently debuted, the then governor of Gombe,  Alhaji Mohammad Danjuma Goje, resisted their incursion into the state and encouraged religious harmony and peaceful co-existence among the people.

But, at the moment, the state cannot be seen or portrayed in that light. People have been killed. The land is soaked in  human blood. But  it is not a problem the state brought upon itself; the dreaded Boko Haram did.

Gombe, since its creation in 1996, may not have been completely free from civil disturbances and unrest but, definitely, not in the manner  of the  mayhem visited  an the state early this month.  On January 5, 2012, members  of Boko Haram unleashed terror on a Deeper  Life  Bible Church at the Nassarawo area of the state capital, killing over 10 persons and injuring  over 14 persons.

It was  death at dusk. The church was in the middle of a service and the attackers, who later turned out to be members of Boko Haram,. came with  sophisticated weapons. Shooting  in the air  heralded their arrival. From the windows of the church, they shot indiscriminately;  worshippers  dropped dead.

Barely one week after, precisely on Friday, January 13, another shooting occurred at  a bar at the BCGA, a suburb of the metropolis. Two persons were killed while  one person was critically injured. Most of the victims of the two incidents were Christians and southerners.

Outrage

Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo expressed shock over the  Gombe attacks. He directed the police to unmask the perpetrators. He could not hide his feelings when he visited one of  the scenes of the attacks, the Deeper Life Bible Church. He  pledged to pick  the medical bills of those hospitalised and assist in the burial of those who lost their lives while acknowledging that the killings had challenged  security  in the state.

Victims

Those  killed include  the wife of Pastor Johnson Juaro who is in charge of the church that was attacked.  Juaro said: “I lost my wife  when they began  to open  fire on us through the window of the church. They were in large numbers  when they attacked us. We just began  to hear  gunshots inside the church and everybody  started  to run for safety.”

A  youth corps member, Mr. Alade John Olarewaju, from Isanlu, Isin in Kwara State, serving with the church, didn’t get lucky either. But Mr. George Onyemachi and his wife were fortunate to have escaped with their lives but not without injuries. George’s  left upper arm was broken. His lower abdomen and a part of his chest were pierced by  bullets.  He was cut open by  doctors who evacuated  the bullets. At the moment, he is lying in the Federal Medical Centre, Gombe where he is undergoing treatment.

Herculean task

Finding the Gombe attackers has become a Herculean task for the police. The state police command,  on daily basis, assures the people of  protection. But they have not apprehended those who carried out the two attacks, fuelling the speculation that more attacks were in the offing, and that suspects arrested in connection with the church attack had been released  on “orders from above.”

According to a release issued  by the state police public relations officer, ASP Ahmad  Muhammad, the police said there was  no iota of truth in the speculation.

“The command wishes to state, unequivocally, that no arrest was made in connection with the ugly incident let alone pressure from above to undermine the investigation process.  Every bit of our activity in connection with the incident in question will be made known to the public. I therefore call on the members of the public to desist and shun rumour mongering”, Muhammad said.

Pleas to Boko Haram

Following the unfortunate incidents in Gombe, many people are asking if the state will ever  continue to play host to non-indigenes. Though calm is returning to the “Jewel in the Savannah”, as Gombe is sobriqueted, it is yet to be known if Boko Haram has heeded the calls by the people to spare innocent lives.

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