I SAW THE CARNAGE FIRSTHAND during a trip earlier this year to some of the affected villages in Bokkos county in Nigeria’s Plateau state. The drive from Kwatas to the village of Marish took about 40 minutes across the flatlands of the plateau and unmarked roadways. A security checkpoint welcomed people into Marish: A police truck sat at one corner, and several large rocks stretched across most of the dirt road to slow traffic.
After the attack in Kwatas, Magaji said, the armed herdsmen targeted the neighboring village of Chenget the same night, where they killed one person. The next day, he received multiple calls from Marish saying hundreds of Fulani extremists were descending down a hill and into the village in broad daylight.
“They were in mass number wearing black clothes carrying heavy arms,” he said. “They were shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [Allah is great].’”
Magaji contacted security forces: “All they could say was that they did not have fuel inside their motorcycles, no fuel in their cars. And they delayed further for more than 40 minutes, trying to sort themselves before taking off for Marish.”
By the time they arrived, at least five people had died.
“We saw the hand of God that saved us here, because … you expect to see this place more destroyed.”
Across the village, pieces of burned mattresses dotted the ground. In a vandalized pharmacy, charred tablets, injection packets, and pieces of cotton mixed with ash on the ground.
Inside the compound of the Church of Christ in Nations, three completely burned cars remained parked. The parsonage, which the church commissioned in September for its regional council chairman, stood without its roof. Broken glass and tiles spread all across the floor.
Rhoda Danjuma, the pastor’s wife, said she and some other villagers were heading to Kwatas to mourn with villagers there when they received word that it wasn’t safe to travel. That’s when the Fulani militants attacked.
The group went into a neighboring village to seek refuge. Several women and children from Marish also fled ahead of the attack.
The attackers destroyed much: new couches, new sets of mattresses, and about 60 bags of maize. Still, Danjuma felt God’s presence with the community: “We saw the hand of God that saved us here, because with [hundreds of attackers] you expect to see this place more destroyed.”
The small cluster of huts where a Fulani community resided just outside the village sat empty.
After the Jan. 27 attack, some of the youths who tried to defend their village blamed the carnage on the Fulanis and vandalized their huts in a reprisal attack. Mai Gambo Dachen, a community leader in Marish, said members of the Fulani community held him and another local official hostage for 10 days. They asked why the officials allowed the reprisal but eventually let them go.
Danjuma also believes some of the Fulani people in their community cooperated with the attackers. Villagers said they saw two Fulani shop owners in the city center point at specific houses for the attackers to burn down: “After the attack, they went together with the attackers.”