Metro & Crime

Missing soldiers: Several villagers killed as military pounds Benue community

Gunmen kill Chinese expatriate, two policemen, kidnap others
We’ll ensure return of peace to warring communities -Ortom

Men of the Nigerian Armed Forces yesterday pounded Shangev-Tiev in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State, following reports that two soldiers were missing in the community. The operation, which involved deployment of military helicopters using missile launchers, left scores of residents dead and property said to worth billions of naira destroyed.

This came a few hours after gunmen killed two policemen, a Chinese expatriate and many others between Shitile in Katsina- Ala and Ukum local government areas of the state. Also, Governor Samuel Ortom promised that his administration would do everything under the law to return peace to warring communities of Konshisha and Oju local government areas. New Telegraph was informed that as a result of the military onslaught in Konshisha, hordes of residents, including women and children, have been rendered homeless.

The operation in Konshisha is linked to the two officers of the Nigerian Army said to be on routine patrol in the local government area which has been having communal crisis with its Oju counterpart, but reportedly went missing. According to reports, three soldiers were initially missing but one of them was later found. It was learnt that pilots of the aircraft flew as low as between five and 10 metres above the roof level, reducing several houses to rubble. Troops of the Operation Whirl-Stroke (OPWS) yesterday carried out a raid on the community during which hideouts of the criminals who attacked soldiers around Bonta village and adjourning communities in Konshisha Local Government Area were destroyed.

The troops also neutralised 12 bandits who were part of the gang which carried out the attack on the soldiers. “The troops stormed the vil-lage with helicopters and with the support of land troops, they destroyed all houses and hideouts suspected to be housing bandits in the area,” a source said. At press time, residents of Bonta village and environs have all deserted their homes and were taking refuge at Tse- Agbaragba, headquarters of Konshisha Local Government Area. The Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Major Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, could be reached to confirm the operation as his phone lines were switched off. However, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Sewuese Anene, confirmed the killing of two policemen and Chinese expatriate Gunmen among others.

She said: “On 7th April, 2021 about 7.30am, a distress call was received from police officers posted to escort expatriates from Symmetry Trading Company Limited in Ukum Local Government Area that they came under an attack of gunmen who laid an ambush at the site under construction before their arrival. “During an exchange of fire with the gunmen, two policemen and one of the expatriates lost their lives while two of the expatriates were kidnapped.”

The PPRO said dozens of police officers had been drafted to the area to trail the hoodlums and rescue the victims. Meanwhile, Governor Ortom pledged to return peace to Konshisha and Oju while briefing journalists after an expanded Security Council Meeting with stakeholders from the two local government areas. Ortom, who reiterated the need for Benue people to support security agents deployed to end crisis in their areas, admonished the people against attacks on security agents, which would make the situation extremely difficult to contain.

He explained that as part of measures to nip the land dispute between Konshisha and Oju in the bud, it was agreed that the boundary be demarcated and a day was fixed for the exercise. According to the governor, a few days to the agreed date, crisis erupted again and security agents were deployed to control its escalation when the troops sent to Konshisha came under attack with two military personnel still missing. Ortom condemned the practice of some communities engaging militia to fight their neighbours. He, however, vowed that such merchants of violence would be made to face the consequences of their actions

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