The death toll in the Plateau massacre could have risen up if not for the kind and timely intervention of an Imam in Inghar Yerwa village.
According to BBC, men and women in the 11 communities that were attacked, took to their heels with their children to the neighboring communities for safety.
While they were running, the Imam saw them and decided to open his home so they can hide from their attackers. He kept the men in the mosque while the women and children he kept in his home.
The attackers came to the Imam and asked him to surrender those that were Christians he was hiding but he lied to them that no Christian was in his home. This singular act saved 262 Christians from being killed in the attack. Over 100 persons, including children, were killed by the suspected herdsmen.
“I first took the women to my personal house to hide them. Then I took the men to the mosque,” the imam told BBC Pidgin. He began to plead with the herdsmen, who were threatening to burn down the mosque and his house. He then prostrated himself on the floor in front of the armed men. Along with some others in the Muslim community, he began to cry and wail, asking them to leave.
And to their amazement the herdsmen did go – but then set two nearby churches on fire.
The imam later told the BBC that he wanted to help because more than 40 years ago, the Christians in the area had allowed the Muslims to build the mosque.
They had freely given over the land to the Muslim community, he said.
“Since we have been living together with the Beroms, we have not experienced an ugly incident like the attack on Saturday,” another Muslim leader told the BBC.
Those whose lives were saved by the imam expressed their gratitude and relief. “Ever since they took us into the mosque, not once did they ask us to leave, not even for them to pray,” said the local chief. “They provided dinner and lunch for us and we are grateful.”
The villagers stayed with the imam for five days – and have since moved to a camp for displaced people. More than 2,000 people are now living there, and others are living with relatives and friends. Those who fled to the mosque cannot return to their village, as there is no security presence there and their homes have been destroyed.
One local Fulani leader told the BBC: “A number of the Fulanis who carried out this attack are foreigners. “When we try to stop them at the mosque, some of them beat up one of the elders.” When I visited the village it was completely deserted.
I saw a church that had been attacked – all the chairs had been broken and the pastor’s house set alight. He died in the fire. The authorities say five rural communities were targeted last Saturday – in an operation that lasted more than five hours. But locals dispute the official figures, saying 11 communities were attacked. “They killed four of my children,” a 70-year-old man told the BBC, in tears. “And now I do not have anyone to give me food”.
The attackers first looted the houses and shops before setting them ablaze. Not even their livestock were spared.
Witnesses say the attackers chanted “Allahu Akbar” as they raided the buildings.