Gunmen kill nine mourners in Benue

Gunmen in the early hours of Friday stormed Birshin Fulani, a suburb of Bauchi metropolis, and kidnapped a nursing mother of three children, Mrs Rukayyat Odedoyin.

Nine persons have been reportedly killed by gunmen in Mbacher Council Ward of Katsina-Ala Local Government area of Benue State on Saturday.

Sources from the area disclosed that the gunmen stormed the venue of the burial of a Tax Collector, Zaki Atser Nor, and wasted no time in opening fire on mourners killing nine persons on the spot while also leaving other persons critically injured.

The attack came after the special military troop of Operation Whirl Strook(OPWS), intensified the fight against criminal armed gangs and banditry which led to the recent killing of three notorious criminals in the state last Thursday and Friday.

A source, who pleaded anonymity, said the attack may be a retaliation of the killing of bandits loyal to the slain Benue’s militia warlord, Terwase Akwaza alias Gana last Thursday and Friday by OPWS.

Speaking to newsmen through telephone yesterday, Chairman of Kastina-Ala LGA, Alfred Atera, confirmed the killing of the nine persons during the attack.

“Nine persons were killed at a burial on Saturday. It was a reprisal. You know one of the boys, Janta was killed. It was a reprisal,” Atera said.

The council boss explained that only four out of the nine persons that were killed were from Katsina-Ala while five others, including an in-law to the deceased man who was from Vandeikya LGA, were also killed by the unknown gunmen.

“The gunmen only wanted to make a statement by storming that burial and killing people. It is not that they had anything against the man that was being buried. In fact, one of the in-laws from Vandeikya, who provided the coffin for the burial of the deceased man, was sadly gunned down by the invading gunmen.

The council chairman said the family refused to go with security personnel for the burial as was the usual practice for fear of the unknown gunmen, adding that what they feared most eventually happened to them.

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Atera said a kindred head, Zaki Isaac Vaatyouhh Gande, was among those who were killed while the three injured persons with various gun bullets were taken to a nearby clinic for first aide treatment before they were transfer red to bigger hospital for proper medical attention.

But when contacted, Force Commander of OPWS, Maj. Gen. Kevin Aligbe, who confirmed the attack, however, dispelled insinuation that it was a retaliation of an earlier killing of some wanted armed militias by his troops.

Aligbe, who noted that there is an ongoing raid of bandits’ hideouts in the entire Sankera area, however, vowed that all perpetrators of the dastardly acts as well as other criminal elements within the area would be smoked out.

“It is true that we are ongoing operation around that area. The reason is that these guys (bandits) have been killing people and extorting people. So, whatever happened yesterday (Saturday) is not as a result of what we are doing because some of them (bandits) have submitted weapons within the last two weeks or something like that.

“They have just made up their minds that they are going to make the place unsafe to law-abiding citizens . But in the next two weeks we are going to get all of them. That is sure promise to Benue people,” Aligbe vowed.

The Public Relation Officer(PRO) of OPWS, AH Katty, had, in a press statement said the renewed intensity of the troop resulted in the destruction of many bandits camps in the past few days.

“Notably, on 24 February 2022 at about 1500hrs while on fighting patrol, troops responded to a distress call at Tse Mela in Yooyo Council Ward of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area (LGA) on the sighting of Iortyom Wuave aka Janta, a notorious armed militia gang leader on OPWS wanted list. Troops swiftly mobilised and moved to the location. On sighting troops, he fired in the direction of the troops as he tried to escape into the nearby bush. He was neutralised during the engagement,” he said.

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“Relatedly, to sustain their clearance operations in the early hours of Friday 25 February 2022, they raided the hideout of notorious armed bandits at Tse Jundo, Mbamena Council Ward in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State. During the operation, two armed bandits were neutralised by troops in a shoot-out. They are: Terdoo Kiorga aka Apaapa and Orkulam Mom aka Orbutee. The duo and others, who were the most dangerous foot soldiers of late Terwase Akwaza (a.k.a Gana), have been on the wanted list of OPWS,” he added.

He said the bandits were known to have unleashed mayhem on Zaki Biam and environs in the past, adding that Items recovered in the hideout included: Five AK 47 rifles, one pump action rifle, three AK 47 magazines, quantity 127 x 5.56mm rounds, 12 cartridges, 5 cell phones and assorted charms.

“Troops have continued to conduct operations, both kinetic and non-kinetic in order to ensure relative peace across the JOA to enable law abiding citizens go about their normal businesses while permitting economic activities to thrive. As part of efforts to win the hearts and minds of host communities where troops are deployed across the theatre,” he explained.

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