Thirty-five armed herdsmen have been killed by troops following a shootout with the herdsmen in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
An M135 Helicopter, which was deployed in support of surface troops, made the operation against the armed herdsmen effective.
But one soldier was killed while two others were injured in the attack. One soldier was declared missing in action.
The encounter between men of the Nigerian Army’s newly formed “Operation Whirl-Stroke” and the herdsmen occurred on Sunday night.
The herdsmen also set ablaze the Army patrol vehicle during the clash which has forced residents, mainly women, children and older people to desert their communities.
Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim, who made the disclosure in a statement yesterday, noted that the operation was conducted within Gwer West, Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue State.
Also yesterday morning, the herdsmen, numbering more than 50, invaded Mchia settlement in the local government area and killed five farmers.
Mchia is a few kilometres away from Anyiin town, the homestead of former Governor Gabriel Suswam.
Many people have been seriously wounded in the twin attacks with several houses also burnt.
It was learnt that the soldier’s killing followed an attempt by the Army personnel to foil a plot by the assailants to attack Logo village at Tseke, a boarder community between Taraba and Benue states in Mbawar clan of Gaambe-Tiev in the area.
The invaders abducted one soldier of the Nigerian Army.
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed the attack.
Agim said: “Clearance operation across Gwer West, Logo and Guma LGAs of Benue State was conducted during the weekend. Troops made contact with heavily armed herdsmen around lower Benue and a militia camp at Chetarer village. The troops engaged the militia and followed the pursuit with M135 helicopter of their air component. This led to a large member of them being neutralized.
“In all, 35 armed herdsmen were neutralized and a large number of them escaped with gunshot injuries. However, one soldier was killed in action (KIA), two sustained slight injuries, but have been treated and discharged.
“Also, a soldier is still missing in action.”
The Chairman of Logo Local Government Area, Mr. Richard Nyajo, who confirmed the soldier’s killing to journalists, explained that the incident occurred between 7p.m. and 8p.m. on Sunday.
Nyajo said one of the soldiers died on the spot while another was critically injured.
He said: “It happened in Logo Local Government Area. I gave them a base at Gov in Mbagegh Council Ward of Logo Local Government. So, in the course of carrying out their peace keeping operation, they went into the bush and I don’t know whether the herdsmen heard about them, they came behind and opened fire on them.
“They burnt one of their patrol vehicles, injured some of them, took some alive and killed one person, but the second person was seriously injured and might not make it alive because he was in bad shape.
“One was said to be missing. But we hope to get a clearer picture of the situation, including the actual number of deaths, because when an attack scatters a group of people like it happened and some are missing, you cannot just conclude on the casualty figure.
“But, surely, some were killed and some were abducted. However, many among those that were missing escaped.”
A source in the area told journalists that: “The community is a Tiv/Jukun settlement and it is a border community where you can hardly draw a border line between Benue and Taraba states, and so far, corpses of two soldiers have been recovered and their patrol vehicle burnt.
“We also heard that some of the soldiers were still unaccounted for, which means that the casualty figure might be higher when the true picture of the attack becomes clearer.”
The latest attack and killing came less than 24 hours after six persons, among them some teachers of Makurdi Local Government Education Authority (LGEA), were killed by Fulani herdsmen near Ikpayongo in Gwer Local Government Area of the state.
The teachers reportedly went to the area last Wednesday to inspect some farmland for rice cultivation under the umbrella of a cooperative society, but were ambushed by the herdsmen who immediately opened fire on them and killed six of them.
Four of the teachers managed to escape with wounds, while the six others were not lucky as they were said to have been killed and their bodies dismembered by the herdsmen.
Meanwhile, the DHQ stated that it made some arrests during clearance operations in some states.
The statement added thus: “Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states conducted a four prong clearance operations during the weekend. At Umaisha and Toto Villages, troops ambushed the militia following a tipoff of a planned attack on the two villages.
“In the ensuing melee, 1 x G3 rifle, 193 x 17.62 mm NATO, 81xG3 rifle ammunition, a locally made pistol and one FN magazine filled with rounds were recovered and one militia was killed.
“In another development, one Adamu Abdullahi, a suspected herdsman at Rukubi in Doma LGA of Nasarawa state was arrested in possession of an ID card of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Nasarawa State Command and a photograph in which he posed with an AK47 rifle.
“The suspect is still under interrogation and will be handed over to the police for prosecution after preliminary investigation.
“Furthermore, OPWS in Nasarawa State arrested one Musa Habu (aged 32 years) at Kolo, close to Umiasha in Toto Local Government Council. Items recovered from the suspect include; one locally made pistol, 2 x cartridges, 1 Techno phone and N130 only. Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect is linked with some suspected militia in that locality. He has been handed over to the DSS for further necessary action.
“In the same vein, troops of OPWS Sector 3 Taraba, on patrol through Kwesati, Manya-Garagun axis made contact with eight bandits who were arrested and were armed with 2 AK47 rifles, one K2 rifle and two locally made guns. Ammunition recovered from them include 56 rounds of 7.6mm, 25 rounds of k2, 3x cartridge, charms, phones amongst other items. Suspects and items are to be handed over to DSS for further investigation.”