Jos - Five persons, including three soldiers, were reportedly injured in Riyom, Plateau, on Wednesday when civilians clashed with soldiers who had gone to aid a search for missing cows.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the incident led to the blockage of the Jos-Abuja road as protesting youths and women took over the highway.
Capt. Salisu Mustapha, Media Officer of the Special Task Force (STF) maintaining the peace in Plateau, who confirmed the incident to NAN, said three soldiers were injured in the fracas after women protested against the search.
Mr Emanuel Danboyi, a leader of the Riyom community and former member of the Plateau House of Assembly, also told NAN that two youths allegedly shot by STF during the clash had been hospitalised.
Mustapha said STF received intelligence report that cows said to have been rustled were sighted in the Farin-Lamba area of Riyom and went in search of the animals.
"But to our surprise, when we approached the area for the assignment, women and some youths of the area attacked our personnel, which led to the injury of three soldiers.
"Some of the youths fired gunshots into the crowd which led to the casualties recorded," he said
Mustapha described the incident as "unfortunate" and wondered why people should seek to stop STF personnel from carrying out "a very routine exercise".
He claimed that there had always been reports of cattle rustling in the area.
Some eyewitnesses, who spoke with NAN, alleged that the STF personnel were resisted because they allegedly "stormed" the community with an armoured tank in search of the cows.
"It was when the women and youths of the area resisted the STF men that the road was blocked," the source, who pleaded anonymity, said.
Also, Mr Timothy Dem, the Majority Leader of Plateau House of Assembly, who confirmed the incident, faulted STF for visiting the area without notifying him or other key stakeholders in Riyom.
"STF made a serious mistake in taking that step without notifying us. Perhaps such incident would not have happened.
"We are not happy with what happened in our community today, especially the casualties recorded as a result of such a grave mistake," he said.
Dem expressed concern over the continuous clash between STF personnel and his people and alleged that his people were "always at the receiving end".
Mustapha, however, faulted Dem’s opinion that the STF should have notified stakeholders of the council before embarking on the search.
"Why should we notify somebody we are accusing of being in possession of some missing property when we want to conduct a search?
"When you do that, the search will not yield any positive result for us," he said.
Mustapha said that his men had dispersed the youths and cleared the Abuja-Jos highway, while law and order had been restored.
"Law and order has returned to the affected area and our men are keeping vigil," he said.