Benue rival militia groups clash leaving family of 7, others slaughtered

It was black Tuesday in the Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State as no fewer than 40 people were feared dead during a clash between rival militia groups.

Although most of the casualties were said to be members of the militia groups, a family of seven and some farmers were feared killed during the crossfire..

One of the terrorist gang leaders was said to have hired the service of external bandits, invaded Gbagir community in Ukum LG and engaged in a fight to oust another militia gang leader in the area.

It was gathered that most of the dead were members of the rival militia gangs while about 12 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 for fear of becoming a target, said the bloody fight started on Tuesday morning after a militia leader in Ukum LGA kidnapped another militia leader from neighbouring Chinkai community in Wukari LGA of Taraba State.

He said: “After kidnapping them, he asked for N100 million ransom but he 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.

“The essence was to enable him to be the head of the militia 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 the leader and on Tuesday morning, the bloody fight ensued.

“From what we gathered, over 40 persons who were mainly bandits have been killed, though we have a record of about 12 farmers who were caught in the crossfire. Over 30 others were injured while some are also missing.

“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 lawmaker representing Ukum State Constituency in the House of Assembly, Nyiyongo Ezra, who could not give details of the crisis said about 20 people were killed.

He said: “For now, I cannot tell you the cause of the attack but the information I heard was that about 20 people were killed.”

Efforts to get the Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia, were not successful but a military source told journalists in Makurdi on Wednesday that some of the attacks in that part of the state were the handwork of local militiamen.

He said: “These are militia men killing themselves. Yes, we acknowledge that probably one or two people may have been caught in the crossfire, but the majority of the people that were killed are members of the militia gangs in the area.”

The military source who declined to comment on the number of casualties said, “Currently, we are in Kwande and are trying to contain the situation in the area and as you can see, calm has been restored to the area. We have been able to flush the herdsmen out of the area and I can assure you that normalcy will be restored.

“But be that as it may, our troops are in Ukum to ensure that the attack does not affect innocent people.”

Meanwhile, the state Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Adesina, who also declined to give details of the crisis, said more officers have been deployed to the area.

“So far, we have recovered five corpses but the search for people is ongoing,” he said.

Credit: PUNCH

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