Terrorists kill monarch, 16 in Benue, Niger, displace 12 villages, 5000 people




 
No fewer than nine persons were reportedly killed and many others seriously injured when gunmen suspected to be loyalists of the late militia leader, Terwase Akwaza (Gana), attacked mourners at Mbacher council ward of Katsina-Ala local government area of Benue state.

Locals said the gunmen stormed the venue of the burial of a tax collector, Zaki Atser Nor, Saturday and started shooting at the mourners, killing nine persons on the spot while also leaving other persons critically injured.


One of the locals, who spoke to journalists but pleaded anonymity, said the attack may be a retaliation of the killing of some armed militia men loyal to the late Gana last Thursday and Friday by troops of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS).


Chairman of Katsina Ala local government area, Mr Alfred Atera, who confirmed the development to journalists Sunday, said nine persons were killed during the attack.


According to him, one of the boys popularly known as Janta was killed by soldiers few days back, a development that resulted in the reprisal by the boys.


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


“The gunmen only wanted to make a statement by storming that burial and killing people. It’s 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 family unfortunately refused to go with security personnel for the burial as was the usual practice for fear of the unknown gunmen. What they feared most eventually happened to them,” he added.


Atera also said a kindred head, Zaki Isaac Vaatyouhh Gande was among those who were killed while the three others sustained injuries from gunshots and later  taken to a nearby clinic for first aide treatment before they were transferred to bigger hospital for proper medical attention.

Army denies reprisal
But when contacted, Force Commander of OPWS, Major-General 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 was 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 on 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 promised.

 Niger bandits

In a related development, bandits at the weekend ransacked 12 villages in Lavun local government area of Niger state killing eight people while over 5000 villagers were reportedly displaced. 

The attack on the communities, it was learnt, was still on Sunday afternoon as the bandits spread to more communities.

Chairman Lavun local government council, Hon Ibrahim Limanko Pata confirmed the incident in a condolence message to his people.


He commiserated with victims of the attacks which occurred in Ebbo and Ndagbegi communities under Egbako Ward.

However, it was learnt that the bandits had spread to more villages as villagers fled the area.

An eyewitness account said: “The attack lasted all through to Sunday morning, during which the gunmen overran about 12 communities, leaving over 5,000 displaced.”

The witness who pleaded anonymity listed the communities overran by the bandits to include  Egbako, Ndaruka, Ebbo, Ndagbegi, Tshogi, Gogata and Ndakogitu, all in Lavun local government area.

“This is the first time gunmen could launch a major offensive on the area, regarded as a-no-go area due to the people’s strong hold on the power of their tradition.

Unfortunately, the bandits are spreading to more villages of Satifu, Yekoko, Sokiara and moving into Batita village,” he said.

The gunmen also reportedly disrupted a wedding ceremony at Gbacitagi village, kidnapped the bride and one other girl.

The hoodlums, according to reports, also carted away all the monies realised at the wedding ceremony, including other valuables 

“They also rustled a number of cattle belonging to the villagers. However, while on their way out of the communities and heading towards Akare community in Wushishi local government area of the state, with their rustled cattle, the gunmen got stuck at Akere when they discovered that the only bridge linking the community with Akare had collapsed,” he said. 

Another source close to Akere community, said the gunmen were currently stranded at the point of crossing with the cattle as the animals refused to enter the river.

It was learnt that the bandits eventually abandoned the cattle at the Akere river bank when all efforts to cross the animals were not successful, and that they decided to retreat back to Sheshi community to find a possible exit out of the community.

Blueprint learnt that this was where the bandits were engaged in gun battle by local vigilantes during which two vigilantes and four locals also died.

The gunmen, according to the locals, later shared themselves into three groups with one group at Dabban community, another group at Shegba, while the third group was said to be heading towards Ndaruka community.

However, Blueprint gathered that the bandits entered Bida, the traditional headquarters of the Nupe Kingdom at about 2pm Sunday. 

Locals are said to be fighting the bandits with a means to repel the attackers.

A source said the bandits were confirmed to be at the Ilorin motor park in Bida where they entered in confusion.

It was learnt that the Sagi in Bida is leading the battle of Bida against the bandits.

We’ rounded them up – NGSG

But the government of Niger state has said security operatives have rounded up the terrorists who invaded several communities in Bida emirate and that eight of the bandits were neutralised while others are holed up along the flanks of River Kaduna.

Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Internal security Emmanuel Umar stated this in a press briefing after an emergency security meeting at the Government House Minna. 

He explained that the bandits entered the area about two days ago and were apparently aware of heavy security presence along the Wushishi cattle routes which made them to turn to Lavun and Kutigi local government areas of the state.

“However, security and local vigilantes engaged the bandits in gun battle during which 8 bandits were killed. They moved over to Laun and Kutigi local governments and to the flanks of river Kaduna up to Dabban community. They are currently rounded up in the area and we hope to neutralise them,” Umar said.

The commissioner said security agencies had fully mobilised to the area and supported by air strikes.

He, however, described the report that bandits have entered Bida as untrue, adding that “I also got that report that the bandits were in specific area in Bida but I called the Area Commander who said the report is false.” 

He advised people to disregard such fake report, adding that “government is committed to flush out the terrorists from the state.  I am happy to tell you that the security agencies and the local communities are more committed to wiped out the terrorists as we employ new strategy”.

 ISWAP kills 11 farmers in Borno

In a related development, about 11 farmers have been killed by suspected members of the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) during an attack in the southern part of the Borno State on Saturday.

It was learnt that ISWAP had stormed a remote village, Sabon-Gari in Damboa Local Government Area of the state on Saturday. The village is located about 125 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital.

According to a security source, about seven bodies were recovered  Saturday before an additional four were found Sunday afternoon.

Another source disclosed that a woman was among the casualties.

“We(combined security forces) recovered a total of 11 dead bodies of farmers, they were all shot several times, they will be buried later in the day according to Islamic rite.” the source said.

Zamfara

And in what looks like a reprieve, the rescue operations to free abducted victims in Zamfara state has yielded some dividends as the state police command, in a joint operation, rescued seven kidnapped victims.

The command’s public relations officer, SP Muhammad Shehu  said this at press briefing in Gusau Sunday.

“On 25th February , 2022, the Tactical operatives of the command in Collaboration with the military  deployed along Dansadau axis in Maru LGA of Zamfara State have Successfully rescued seven (7) Kidnapped victims who are natives of Chibade village in Rijau LGA of Niger State,” he said.

He said during debriefing, the victims  informed the Police that, on 21st February, 2022  bandits in large number, stormed their village (Chibade) and abducted seven of them to unknown location in Dansadau forest of Zamfara State. 

“Joint Police and Military operatives while on a coordinated bush clearance around Dansadau axis, successfully rescued the affected victims and brought them to Yariman Bakura Specialist Hospital, Gusau where they received medical check,” he explained.

The police image-maker stated that all the victims would be handed over to the Commissioner of Police Niger State Police Command for further appropriate action. 

“The Commissioner of Police Zamfara State Command, CP Ayuba N. Elkana psc (+) congratulated the victims and their families for regaining their freedom,” he said. 

The CP assured members of the general public of the command’s continuous commitment to rid the state of all form of criminal activities.

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