Several people killed, 20 bodies recovered as armed militia go on killing spree

Several people killed, 20 bodies recovered as armed militia go on killing spree

About 50 persons, including a family of seven, were feared dead on Tuesday, following the invasion of the Gbagir community in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State, by suspected armed Fulani militia, supported by local Tiv bandits in a battle to oust another Tiv militia gang in the area.

Accordibg to Vanguard, it was gathered that most of the dead were members of the rival militia gangs, while about 12 innocent farmers were caught in the crossfire which also left over 30 persons injured and many others declared missing.

A traditional ruler in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bloody fight started on Tuesday morning after a Tiv militia leader in Ukum LGA, kidnapped another Fulani militia leader, one Alhaji Gana and his family members, who were allegedly known for banditry and kidnappings, from neighbouring Chinkai community in Wukari LGA of Taraba State.

His words: “After kidnapping them, he asked for N100 million ransom but was given N5 million. After collecting the money he killed the hostages.

“The murder of the hostages sparked outrage among his gang members in Taraba State. This happened over the weekend.

“What followed was that another militia gang leader in Ukum now went and joined forces with the Fulani militia gang in Taraba to help them eliminate the rival gang in Ukum that killed their leader, Alhaji Gana.

“The essence was to enable him to become the head of militias in Ukum. The combined forces of Fulani and Tiv militia gangs started moving into the bushes of Gbagir in their hundreds on Sunday to sack the gang that killed Alhaji Gana. On Tuesday morning, a bloody fight ensued.

“From what we gathered, over 45 persons, mainly bandits have been killed, though we have records of over 12 farmers who were caught in the crossfire. Over 30 others were injured, while some are also missing. We learned that the gangs are also evacuating some of their dead members.

“Sadly caught in the crossfire was a family of seven in Tse Adzandeh Mbasaa, Mbajiga, Ityuluv, Torov. They were all members of the Adzandeh family.

“The armed men have also spread to the bushes of Gbeji, Chito and Afia in their numbers but cannot move into the residential areas because of the timely intervention of troops of Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS.

“In fact, when people noticed the movement of armed Fulani militia into Benue communities, the chiefs informed political leaders, who immediately briefed Governor Hyacinth Alia, who equally alerted the military for swift action.

“It was this timely response of the governor to the intel and the intervention of the OPWS that saved the people of Ukum LGA because we gathered that they planned to kill hundreds of people in Ukum as revenge for the murdered Fulani militia leader but it is their gang war, innocent residents have nothing to do with that.

“Over 1,000 of them have laid siege to Ukum LGA as we speak. That is why we are appealing to the military to save us before they wipe out our innocent families.

“We need more security posts in and around the area and we also appeal to the governors of Benue and Taraba states to team up and put an end to the activities of these cross-border criminals. They should support the military with logistics also.

“As we speak, these people are still in the bushes in Ukum, they have not moved back to Taraba. The Fulani militia are being supported by a Tiv militia group to eliminate another Tiv militia gang and as they fight, the innocent locals will be killed.

“There is an urgent need to protect the other three villages because we are hearing that the first phase of the attack is in Gbagir, while Chito, Gbeji and Afia might be next. We are also appealing for fortified military presence in all the Benue and Taraba border communities.”

20 corpses recovered – Lawmaker
Confirming the killings, the lawmaker representing Ukum state constituency, Ezra Nyiyongo, said 20 corpses had been recovered.

Efforts to reach the Force Commander of OPWS, Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia, was unsuccessful but a military source confirmed the development.

The source said: “These are militia men killing each other. Yes, we acknowledge that some people may have been caught in the crossfire but the majority of the people that were killed were members of the militia gangs in the area.

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