By Peter Duru & Joseph Erunke
Makurdi—Troops of Operation Whirl Storm, a military spike operation to rid Benue State of armed militia men that have been terrorising the Lower Benue axis, engaged herdsmen at Kwatan Gyemu, a border community between Benue and Nasarawa states in a shootout, weekend.
During the encounter, cows were killed while some of the herdsmen escaped into the surrounding bushes with gunshot wounds. But seven of the herders were arrested with weapons.
Force Commander of Operation Whirl Storm, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, yesterday in Makurdi, said the major clearance operations carried out by his troops during the last Eid-el-fitr celebrations code named Operation Dark Dawn and Operation Deadly Strike, were supported by Mi35 helicopter from the Nigerian Air Force and other surveillance aircraft.
His words: “The troops ambushed a group of about 40 herdsmen with approximately 3,000 cattle at Kwatan Gyemu, some of who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
“Troops engaged the armed herdsmen, who fled using cows as shields. Some of the cows were killed while some of the herdsmen escaped into the surrounding bushes with gunshot wounds.
“Four motorcycles abandoned by the fleeing herdsmen were recovered. Our troops pursued the herdsmen and thereafter burned their camp close to River Benue.
“Both troops then proceeded to Okungbo, where they conducted cordon-and-search operations. Successes recorded after the search include arrest of four suspects, recovery of seven locally-manufactured rifles, including revolvers which were made to fire 7.62mm special ammunition spare barrel.
“In addition, nine rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition and two handsets were recovered including some documents which have since been handed over to Department of State Services, DSS, for further investigation.”
Invasion of Gana’s camp
Continuing, General Yekini said: “And following a tip-off, the troops in conjunction with 72 and 93 Battalion soldiers attacked the camp of notorious militia leader, Gana, located at Ayaka in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area.
“Prior to the attack, NAF Mi35 gunship helicopter carried out aerial bombardment of the camp, which led to the successful dislodgement of Gana and his armed men.
“In the ensuing melee, our troops recovered some personal effects of Gana, suggesting he was in the camp at the time of the attack.
“The assault on Camp Ayaka was preceded by aerial bombardment by Mi35 helicopter from the Nigerian Air Force. During a search of the camp, troops recovered one gun, one pistol, seven rounds of 7.62mm and 9mm special ammunition.
“Two members of the gang were captured, while another member of the gang was arrested by the troops of 93 Battalion towards Taraba State, who has already confessed to killing the former Security Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom.
“In the course of the mopping up operation, troops recovered 10 magazines of AK-47.”