No fewer than 16 persons have been reportedly killed in a fresh attack on Agagbe community in Gwer West Local Government Areas of Benue State by suspected herdsmen, who invaded the community at about 4.30am.
Commander of the joint military operation in the state code named, Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, Major-General Adeyemi Yekini, while confirming the attack, said seven corpses had so far been recovered by his troops from the community.
Yekini said he received report from Sub-Sector Commander of OPWS in Gwer West Local Government Area, Flying Officer Mohammed Abubakar, that at about 4:30pm on Saturday, adding that some of his reliable community sources informed him that some men dressed in military uniform were sighted in Agagbe forest rustling cows and he quickly mobilised his men to the area and found three dead bodies, which were moved to a hospital in the area.
According to the commander: “My personnel embarked on a search as well as carried out the investigation and discovered that those behind the rustling of cows were in military uniform.
“Thereafter, we made contact with the DPO, who equally identified the rustlers as people who disguised in military uniform to rustle cattle in the area.
“Just this Sunday afternoon (yesterday), my men went on mop-up patrol and discovered another additional four dead bodies at the scene of the incident.”
Yekini regretted that some unseen hands might be at work to create a state of crisis in the state, ahead of the governorship and state Assembly elections, a week to the polls just as it happened in Agatu a week to the last presidential election.
He, however, assured that his men would continue to protect the people from marauding herdsmen but advised those fuelling crisis in the state to desist from the act in the interest of the people of the state.
Speaking on the development, the paramount ruler of the area, Ter Nagi, Chief Daniel Abomtse, acknowledged that there was heavy attack in some communities in his domain at the weekend.
“OPWS has been helpful to us but sometimes, troops of the operation will kill cows belonging to herdsmen and chase them away only for the herdsmen to come in a reprisal attack on my subjects, this happened on January 21 and a similar incident occurred on Saturday.”
When contacted, Chairman of Gwer West Local Government Area, Mr. Francis Ayaga, said three villages in Agagbe were affected in the attack, adding that he had confirmed 16 deaths in the affected villages.
Meanwhile, the Benue governor, Samuel Ortom yesterday described the killing of 16 people at Agagbe as unfortunate.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, said; “it was wrong for OPWS to allege that members of the Livestock Guards were involved in the killings and tasked the troops to always verify their source of information rather than relying on unverifiable ones before passing judgement.”
He added that, “This Operation Whirl-Stroke comprises of professional soldiers who supposed to act professionally. They can’t rely on information from unverifiable source to come and say members of Livestock Guards are instigating crisis. Livestock Guards are not armed, neither were they given military uniform by Benue government. So the military should be objective and unbiased in their actions.”