NO fewer than 30 persons, including four soldiers from the 33 Field Artillery Brigade, Bauchi, may have been killed in a fresh clash between members of an Islamic sect called kala-kato and security personnel in the Zango area of Bauchi Metropolis in the early hours of yesterday.
The kala-kato (which means "he has said") sect claims to be an off shoot of the original Maitatsine sect of the 1980s.
Among the victims who died were 15 children between the ages of three and seven.
A cripple, Yusufa Abba, was said to have been slaughtered like a ram by the sect members.
A number of houses in Zango were set on fire by members of the sect who went on rampage demanding the release of their leader arrested by the authorities.
Affected, was Gambo Nabarasi whose house opposite the sect’s enclave in Zango area was burnt down completely. When The Guardian visited the Federal Low-cost House Estate, which is near the scene of the clash, sound of gunshot exchange between security personnel and the members of the sect still rent the air.
There was apprehension among citizens while all businesses in the area remained shut.
The bodies of the military personnel were being conveyed in a Hilux Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) by some of their colleagues.
The security operatives were seen trying to fish out the members of the sect who retreated into the hills nearby.
Governor Isa Yuguda, was again away in Britain when the crisis erupted. None of his officials was on hand to brief journalists on the situation. Among those killed, according to unconfirmed reports, were four soldiers drafted to the troubled area alongside other security operatives.
About four innocent children who fell victims were burnt when their parents’ house was set ablaze by the rampaging sect members.
According to an eyewitness, Ibrahim, who is one of the neighbours to the sect members, said that the residents started to sense trouble early yesterday when the preacher of the sect embarked on a sermon insulting other Moslem sects.
Ibrahim said that the preacher called other sects infidels.
"I live at the Zango Main Road but this street is called Saidawa. I was at the open preaching of the sect yesterday night (Sunday) and this morning (Monday) when the preacher questioned the rationale behind the killing of the dreaded Boko Haram members when all the sect members were preaching against is reality," he said.
He added: "One of the listeners challenged the preacher and he was dealt with there while another who called on the people to leave the venue of the preaching was killed instantly and before we knew what was happening, the sect members had taken to the street burning down people’s houses and maiming others. It is very unfortunate this is happening again in Bauchi," Ibrahim said.
When contacted, the State Police Command spokesman, Mohammed Barau, confirmed the crisis.
Barau said the command deployed a combined team of regular and Mobile policemen to the area to maintain law and order, adding that as at the time of this report, the command was still awaiting situation report from those on the field.
The spokesman said the Police Commissioner, Atiku Yusuf Kafur, was not ready to comment as he was awaiting directives from the Police Headquarters in Abuja.
Barau gave assurance that the situation was under control and it should be reported as such.
Meanwhile, as at the time of going to Press, a security meeting was going on between the Army and the Police Commands.
This will be the third religious crisis in Bauchi this year including the dreaded Boko Haram in June which claimed many lives and property.