From Austine Tule, Makurdi
Force Commander Operation Whirl Stroke OPWS, Major General Adeyemi Yekini, on Monday said 21 herdsmen have been killed in a gun battle between troops and herdsmen at Tomatar in Guma local government area of Benue state.
Major General Yekini also said one soldier has lost his life in the gun battle adding that the 21 herdsmen were killed by the troops in two different operations carried out on 4th and 18 August 2018.
Yekini who briefed newsmen at the Tactical Air Command in Makurdi the Benue state capital, noted that troops of the OPWS in one of their operations on the 4th August encountered with large herds of cattle at about 0900hrs close to boundary between Benue and Nasarawa States, and engaged them leading to the death of six of the hostiles while many escaped with gunshot wounds.
According to Yekini, the second encounter occurred on 18 August 2018 when troops of the Sector on routine fighting patrol along the same Gbajimba Akor Tomata axis had another encounter with a large number armed herdsmen at about 0900hrs and exchanged fire for about 2 hrs while reinforcements were sent to support the troops.
“OPWS troops lost one soldier while 2 others sustained gunshot wounds. “The 2 personnel are currently responding to treatment at the NAF Base Hospital. “As the fighting was going on, 1 x Mi35 helicopter was also scrambled to provide air support to the troops.
“During the fire fight, the Mi-35 spotted a group of about 20 X armed herdsmen riding on motorcycle moving along the axis towards Nasarawa State.
“15 of the armed herdsmen on 5 motorcycles were neutralised with rocket fire from the Mi3S while others escaped with varying degrees of injuries.
“Own troops chased the remaining herdsmen until contact was broken close to the boundary between Nasarawa and Benue State,” he added.
He said the troops also carried out another operation in Katsina Ala, in response to the recent killings suspected to have been masterminded by Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as Gana and carried out air strikes neutralising some buildings in the camp belonging to Gana.
Yekini said though it was not clear whether Gana was killed during the raid, trails of blood seen in the building suspected to be where he slept suggest he might have been hit.
He said effort was in progress to confirm wether Gana was killed in the attack.
“Meanwhile troops of 93 Bn arrested one Israel Shima believed to be a member of Gana’s militia group at Dogon Gawa in Taraba after possibly escaping from the camp during the attack and he confessed to be responsible for some of the recent killings in Katsina Ala based on Gana’s instruction,” he added.