Gunmen on Wednesday ambushed and killed Rev. Fr. David Tanko, a Catholic priest of Jalingo diocese at Kufai Amadu parish in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State.
The priest was said to be on his way to Takum for a peace meeting with his colleagues on how to resolve the lingering Tiv/Jukun crisis when he was ambushed, killed and his remains burnt.
The chairman of Takum Local Government Area, Mr. Shiban Tikari, who confirmed the sad incident, disclosed that after killing the cleric, the attackers set him and his car ablaze.
Tikari alleged that the deceased, who hailed from Wukari Local Government Area of the state, was attacked by Tiv militias.
Meanwhile, Bishop Charles Hammawa of the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo yesterday condemned the killing of Fr. Tanko by gunmen. He described the killing of the priest as shocking.
He said Fr. Tanko was killed between Kasuan Haske and Tortsee on his way to Amadu from Takum in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba.
Hammawa said: “We received the news of his death with shock and great sadness, the diocese is mourning. “We have been preaching peace and making efforts to bring the parties that were enmeshed in crisis in the area together for a round table discussion.
“For a priest, who has been preaching peace to be killed in this most gruesome manner is pathetic, to say the least, a priest belongs to all.
“For now, we are not pointing accusing finger at any group for being responsible.’’
“Our basic concern now is to give him a befitting burial. We don’t want any group to go on reprisal.
“Going on reprisal will only worsen the situation.”
Hammawa announced that wake in honour of the priest will hold on Monday, September 2, while the burial would take place on Tuesday at the Diocesan cemetery in Jalingo. Another priest of the diocese, Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Kamai, described the development as “demonic, barbaric and the height of evil.”
He said: “Why anyone would chose to attack and murder a Catholic priest in such cold blood when all the priest does is to preach and work for peace at all levels and amongst all peoples.
“We condemn any attack on peace brokers, such as priests and other clergy. If we kill those who pray for us then this country is in trouble. The vengeance of God will be hard on us. I pray his killers did not know he was a priest but if it is deliberate, this is a most condemnable act. Fr. Tanko was one of our best priests in Jalingo Diocese; we will miss him. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. His blood will not go in vain.”
Similarly, the Taraba Tiv youths Forum has condemned the murder of the Catholic priest in strong terms and called on security agencies to spring to action those behind the dastardly act are brought to book.
Mr. Kelvin Katyo, leader of the forum, who spoke to our correspondent, alleged that the clergyman was killed by Jukun militia, who were on a mission in the area destroying Tiv settlements and mistook the Jukun born priest for a Tiv man.
He said: “Fr. Tanko was killed yesterday by the Jukun militias in Tortser as they attacked the village for the third time yesterday cutting mango trees and destroying houses. I think this is an unfortunate case of mistaken identity because another Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Iorbee, who is a Tiv man from Takum has the same type of car that Rev. Fr. Tanko is using, and the Jukun militia probably thought it was Fr. Iorbee.”
The state police public relations officer, David Misal, who confirmed the incident, said that the police were “on the trail of the unknown assailants and would stop at nothing to make sure that they are arrested and brought to face justice for such a cruel act.”
The crisis between the Tiv and Jukun in southern parts of Taraba State has claimed over 200 lives since April this year and the priests have been at the forefront of the clamour for a peaceful resolution of the killings and wanton destruction of property.
A few weeks ago, Rev. Fr. Paul Offu from the Catholic Diocese of Enugu was also killed by suspected hoodlums.