One soldier has paid the supreme sacrifice in a shoot-out between armed herdsmen and soldiers of Operation Whirl Stroke deployed to Benue State to stop herdsmen killings.
Confirming the incident on Monday, the Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Maj.-Gen. Adeyemi Yekini informed newsmen on Monday that troops killed 21 armed herdsmen and lost one soldier in Benue State.
The Force Commander further revealed that two soldiers also sustained various degrees of injures during operations and were currently receiving treatment at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Base Hospital.
Troops had killed 15 armed herdsmen on Saturday along Gbajimba-Akor Tomata axis during a gunfight between both parties which lasted for about 2 hours. It was during this firefight that one soldier was killed while two others sustained injuries.
According to the Force Commander;
“During the fire-fight, the Mi35 spotted a group of about 20 armed herdsmen riding on motorcycles moving along the axis towards Nasarawa State. Fifteen of the armed herdsmen on the motorcycles were neutralized with rocket fire from the Mi35 while others escaped with varying degrees of injuries.
OPWS troops lost one soldier while 2 others sustained gunshots wounds. The two personnel are currently responding to treatment at NAF Base Hospital.”
Troops further encountered several armed herdsmen moving along with a large herd of cattle between Nasarawa and Benue states on the 4th of August after which Troops engaged them in a gun battle killing six armed herdsmen in the process.
The Force Commander said the troops recovered one AK 47 rifle, 2 AK 47 magazines, 60 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunitions and five motorcycles from the armed herdsmen.
Troops also invaded the Tse Akwaza camp belonging to Benue notorious gang leader Terwase Akwaza (aka Gana) on Sunday, softening up the area with airstrikes before ground troops moved in to clear the area.
The Force Commander however confirmed that nothing significant was discovered in the camp and it wasn’t clear if the leader of the gang was killed in the assault.
“It was not clear if Gana was killed during the assault, but trail of blood seen in the building suspected to be where he slept, suggests he might have been hit. A motorcycle usually used by Gana was also badly damaged during the air strike. Efforts are in progress to confirm if Gana was killed in the attack and if not, we will still go after him.” The Force Commander said.
The middle-belt states of Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau have suffered incessant attacks from armed herdsmen for over five years now. The carnage spiked in January 2018 with scores of civilians (mostly farmers) murdered while thousands more have been displaced in IDP camps all over the region.
Operation Whirl Stroke is the recent effort by the government to quell the killings following National and International outcry against President Buhari to bring the killings to an end.