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40 feared killed as militia gangs clash in Benue

More than 40 people, including a family of seven, were feared killed in clashes between militia gangs in the Gbagir community in the Ukum Local Government Area of Benue on Tuesday.

A highly reliable military source said on Wednesday in Makurdi that security operatives had been deployed in the area to restore normalcy.

He said locals in the area would need to furnish the operatives with credible information to succeed in the operation, however.

“It was militiamen that were killing themselves.

“One or two people might have been caught in the crossfire, but the majority of the people that were killed were members of militia gangs in the area.

“The villagers know those carrying out this dastardly act but are shielding them.

“We saw several corpses. The attack was not carried out by suspected armed herdsmen. It was a clash between two local militia groups,’’ the source said.

Police in Benue also confirmed the clash and declared that only eight corpses had so far been recovered from the scene.

Police spokesman, SP Sewuese Anene, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that additional operatives had been deployed in the area to restore peace and order.

Anene denied knowledge of any ongoing mass burial taking place in the community, as was being rumoured.

An independent source in the area corroborated the position of the military source that most of the dead were members of rival militia gangs.

He said about 12 farmers were caught in the crossfire, while many were still missing.

A traditional ruler in the area, who requested anonymity, said the bloody fight began on Tuesday morning.

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He said a militia leader in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue went to Chinkai community in Wukari Local Government Area in neighbouring Taraba at the weekend and kidnapped a tribal militia leader.

He also kidnapped family members of the Chinkai militia leader, he added.

“After kidnapping them, he demanded a N100 million ransom but was given N5 million. After collecting the money, he killed his hostages.

“The murder of the hostages sparked outrage among members of the victims’ gang in Taraba.

“A different militia gang leader in Ukum joined forces with the avenging militia gang from Taraba to help eliminate the Ukum gang leader who abducted and killed his Chinkai community victims.

“The essence was to enable him (the collaborator) to become the head of the militia gang in Ukum,’’ he said.

The traditional ruler said the combined forces of two different tribal militia gangs started moving into Gbagir bushes in their hundreds on Sunday to sack the gang that killed the Taraba militia gang leader.

“On Tuesday morning, a bloody fight ensued.

“From what we have heard, more than 45 people, mainly bandits, have been killed. We also have a record of about 12 farmers who were caught in the crossfire.

“More than 30 others were injured, while some are still missing.

“Sadly caught in the crossfire was a family of seven,’’ he added.

He said also that the armed men had also spread into bushes in the surrounding areas but could not move into residential areas because of the timely intervention of troops of “Operation Whirl Stroke’’ (OPWS).

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“When people noticed the movement of the armed tribal militia groups into Benue communities, the chiefs informed political leaders, who briefed Gov. Hyacinth Alia, who equally alerted the military for swift action.

“It was the timely response of the governor and the intervention of the OPWS that saved the people of Ukum Local Government Area,’’ he stressed. (NAN)

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