By Omololu Ogunmade, John Shiklam, Michael Olugbode and George Okoh
The death toll continued to mount without let in parts of the country on Tuesday when 10 persons were brutally murdered in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, following an attack on five villages in the area.
The attack on Birnin Gwari preceded yet another invasion on villages in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State by suspected herdsmen on Wednesday morning, leading to the deaths of three persons.
The herdsmen attack on the Benue communities took place when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was on a two-day visit to the state to assess the damage caused by the farmers-herdsmen crisis.
In the case of Birnin Gwari, the attack occurred on the same day the Chief of Army State, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, visited the area, which has recorded dozens of attacks in recent months.
During his visit, Buratai had ordered troops to be deployed in Birnin Gwari and had given them an ultimatum to flush out the bandits within three weeks.
The bandits were said to have invaded the communities again in Birnin Gwari on Tuesday at about 5:00 p.m.
A vigilante group in the area, Birnin Gwari Vanguard for Security, said in a statement that the attack lasted for over three hours.
“The bandits attacked the villages around 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday and it lasted for three and a half hours.
“The villages are Mashigi, Dakwaro, Sabon Gida and another village adjacent to Dakwaro,” the statement said.
The statement quoted a member of the vigilante group, Mallam Umar, as saying 10 dead bodies were recovered, while many were unaccounted for.
The bandits were said to have burnt houses and foodstuff of the affected villages.
According to the vigilante group, volunteers from the southern axis of Birnin-Gwari and security personnel were mobilised to ascertain the number of casualties.
The group added that the affected villages were in need of aid after the raid.
The group, while commending the federal government and security personnel for the steps taken to address the security challenges in the area, called for additional deployment of troops and special forces from the police to contain the attacks.
Efforts to reach the spokesman of the Kaduna State Police Command Aliyu Mukhtar were unsuccessful as he did not respond to phone calls and a text message sent to him.
Following the latest attack, Buratai said Thursday in Abuja that the Nigerian Army was prepared to partner other security agencies in the country to flush out bandits operating in the Birnin Gwari axis along the Kaduna expressway.
Answering questions from journalists after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Buratai said an army battalion had been deployed in the area to address security concerns.
“We will continue to cooperate along with other security agencies that are charged with the responsibility of securing our country and the deployment of a unit there is quite strategic. It is in line with the Nigerian Army order of battle that was approved in 2016.
“We have to implement all of them to achieve the strategic objective of the government. This is essentially why we have to put the battalion there and to work with other security agencies,” Buratai said.
On the counter-terrorism operation in the North-east, the Army chief said the ongoing “Operation Last Hold” by troops would strengthen military operations in the area and equally pave the way for the return of internally displaced persons to their various communities.
“It has gone very successfully. It’s progressing very well and be rest assured that Operation Last Hold will further consolidate on our achievements so far but we hope the internally displaced persons will go back to their communities and pick up their lives again.
“I think that is the aim of this our Operation Last Hold. It is a consolidation of the overall successes that we have achieved in the North-east,” Buratai said.
In Benue, rampaging herdsmen on Wednesday morning attacked and killed three persons while several others were said to be missing in Logo Local Government Area.
The attack took place when the vice-president was at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Anyiin to sympathise with the people over the invasion of herdsmen in the area.
A resident said the herdsmen stormed the affected communities which included Tse-Mue, Torkaa, Mgbakpa, Torjem and Ifer villages between 6:30 and 9:00 a.m., killing three persons whose names he gave as Bem Torjem, Apedzan Chia and Akpuku Koya,
He said the herdsmen launched the deadly attack when the people were heading to their farms, adding that there was palpable fear as many people had fled the area.
He said the death toll from the attack could be higher but this could only be ascertained when those who ran away had returned.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom confirmed the latest killing during a courtesy visit made by Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Suleiman Hassan Zarma.
Ortom said the herdsmen attacked and killed some people in Logo.
All attempts to get confirmation from the police command in Benue were unsuccessful, as the police spokesman could not be reached.
Suicide Bombing Kills Four in Borno
Meanwhile, residents of Borno State were woken up to another terrorist attack by Boko Haram Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his bomb at Dikwa during early morning Muslim prayers.
The attack targeted at Muslims on the first day of Ramadan, the Holy month set aside for fasting and prayer to God (Allah), led to the deaths of four persons while eight others sustained injuries.
A post on the Facebook page of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), North East office by the agency’s information officer, AbdulKadir Ibrahim, said: “Incident of suicide bomb blast occurred at Dikwa town, Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State during early morning prayers.
“Four persons were reported dead while eight others were injured.
“Security has been beefed up. The area is now calm with extra vigilance enjoined by residents.”