Wife of suspected militia leader, Terwase Agwaza, also known as ‘Gana’, and 12 of his members were reportedly killed while a soldier was declared missing at Sai, Katsina/Ala local government area of Benue State in a gunfight between the suspected militia and the personnel of ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’, OPWS, the military spike operation to end herdsmen killings and militancy in the state.
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Briefing newsmen, yesterday, on the activities of the operation in Benue and neigbouring states, the Operations Commander, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, said the shootout with the suspected militia came after his personnel ran into an ambush.
The Commander said, “The offensive operation was conducted against armed militia group associated with ‘Gana’ around Ukum local government of Benue State.
“The operation was carried out following persistent reports of silent killings by ‘Gana’s gang members against innocent citizens of Ukum”.
Narratng the gunfight, Yekini said that following intelligence, OPWS troops, drawn from Sectors 14, simultaneously assaulted four identified camps used by ‘Gana’ gang members in Sai, Ishagogo, Adamu lmiande and Ntan.
“The four locations are between Katsina Ala and Ukum local government areas of the State. Our troops made contact with Gana’s men at Sai where the armed militia elements in large numbers engaged the troops in a shoot-out for over two hours”, he stated.
“The troops that assaulted Adamu lmiande, encountered armed militia men approaching from Ntan general area. The militia men also ambushed troops on their way out but our troops successfully fought through without any casualty.
“At the end of the four simultaneous assaults, OPWS troops killed 12 militia men loyal to Gana at Sai while we recorded one case of a soldier who got missing during the fighting. Efforts are currently ongoing to locate and rescue the missing soldier.”
Yekini, who vowed to apprehend the wanted Agwaza, said, “We have already decimated his gang members, I can assure you that, in no distant time, we will get him.”
He went on: “Our troops also conducted a raid operation against suspected armed herdsmen camp behind Anyiin in Logo local government area on October 17, 2018 at about 7am.
“On approaching the camp, the herdsmen opened fire on our troops who promptly returned fire forcing the armed bandits to flee into the surrounding bushes.
“It is suspected that many of the armed herdsmen were killed during the exchange of fire. On searching the camp, troops recovered two AK 47 rifles, three AK 47 magazines, 37 rounds 7.62 mm special ammunition and one techno handset and thereafter destroyed the camp.”
The commander explained that the operation in the last few week, also led to the arrest of suspected cult gang members and recovery of weapons in parts of Makurdi, Benue State capital.
According to him, the operation, which extended to Nasarawa and Taraba states, had helped in restoring peace in troubled communities of the states leading to the return of over 145,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the three states since the inception of operation.
“In all, OPWS has recovered a total of 45 assorted weapons, 1,285 rounds of ammunition, 24 AK magazines while 74 suspects were arrested since the inception of the operation”, Yekini added.