The troops of Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, a military spike operation put in place to check the attacks by the resilient herdsmen in Benue state, ran into herdsmen on Tuesday.
On that fateful day the troops came under the fire of the well oiled firing power of the marauders in an ambush along Bakin-Korta, Mbadwem Council Ward of Guma local government area of Benue State and Keana in Nasarawa state leaving two dead and five others with serious bullet injuries.
That attack also left the Unit Commander of the troops with serious bullet injury requiring surgery to stabilize his condition while their operational truck was riddled with bullets.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the military personnel ran into the ambush after the marauders had infiltrated the Benue community from a camp at Ruga in Nasarawa state to sabotage a newly constructed bridge at Mbadwem by the Governor Samuel Ortom led administration linking Benue and Nasarawa states.
They were said to have dug trenches around the bridge probably preparatory to an onslaught on surrounding Guma communities. It took the eagle eyed military personnel to uncover and truncate the plot which unfortunately did not go without the price of two lives of members of the troops.
Recounting the scenario to Saturday Vanguard, a resident in the area, name withheld, said the marauders numbering over 1,000 stormed the area and after surveying the community attempted to destroy the bridge but when they could not actualize the mission resorted to digging trenches around the platform.
According to the resident,
“they came yesterday numbering close to one thousand and started shooting sporadically in the area and chased our people away after which they burnt several houses in our community. “They attempted to pull down the newly built bridge linking Benue and Nasarawa state but the soldiers attached to the OPWS heard of it moved in this morning but ran into an ambush of the militants where two of the solders were killed while others sustained injuries.”
Confirming the development, the Guma local government council Chairman, Anthony Shawon in his account said the incident occurred at about 5am. According to Mr. Sharon said,
“the herdsmen came yesterday (Monday) and dug trenches around a new bridge which the Governor Samuel Ortom administration in Benue state built at Mbadwem, Bakin-Korta linking Keana in Nasarawa state. “I gathered that they came in their numbers and dug the trenches on both sides of the bridge so that the army would not have easy access to the area in the event of an attack on Guma. “When the soldiers got wind of the development, they mobilized the community to fill up the trenches. The people of the community in my local government went and filled up the trenches. At about 5am today( Tuesday) the soldiers also moved to Keana to find out those who carried dug the trenches and why they did so.
After passing a Police check point on their way to Ruga, a Fulani camp, somehow the herdsmen probably heard of their coming and laid ambush for the soldiers. “In the ensuing shootout two of the soldiers were killed on the spot, a Captain who is the Unit Commander was also shot but he and others have been moved to the hospital in Makurdi for treatment and surgery. “
As we speak all the houses in that area have all been burnt down by the armed herdsmen. They have been coming from that area to attack my people. We learnt that they were planing to repeat what they did in Plateau state in Guma but for the quick response of the soldiers. “I commend the soldiers for taking a proactive measure to stop them but unfortunately they lost their personnel in the effort, it is regrettable,” Shawon added.
On hearing of the development, Governor Samuel Ortom immediately visited the wounded soldiers at the Air Force hospital in Makurdi to sympathize and commiserate with them. Ortom who spoke shortly after visiting the victims promised to offset the hospital bills of the soldiers and all the patients at the hospital.
While commending the military personnel for their bravery and dedication to duty which had helped stem the spate of killings in the state, the governor however lamented that the masterminds of the attacks were known but were being treated as sacred cows who were untouchable.
He called for the arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah who on several occasions had claimed responsibility for the massacre in the state.