…witness says it’s a reprisal for the murder of Gana’s men by military
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
A traditional ruler and eight other mourners have been reportedly killed during a burial ceremony by armed bandits suspected to be loyalists of the later Terwase Agwaza alias ‘Gana’ at Imande Mbakenge, Mbache Council Ward of Katsina-Ala Local Government Government Area, LGA, of Benue State.
The gruesome murder of the mourners came less than 48 hours after troops of the joint security/military operation in Benue state, codenamed Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, eliminated three militia leaders and loyalists of the late ‘Gana’ in Katsina-Ala and Ukum LGAs.
Vanguard gathered from a source in the area who spoke on condition of anonymity that the well-armed gunmen stormed the venue of the burial on Saturday morning on motorbikes and opened fire on the mourners.
He said: “It happened during the burial ceremony of Mr Atser Nor Agbev, from Imande Mbakange, Mbache Council Ward in Katsina-Ala LGA where people were mourning the dead.
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“The group of well-armed young men just came on three motorcycles and immediately went straight to where the Kindred Head named, Zaki Isaac Gande was seated and started molesting him.
“They searched him and took away some money from him after which they shot him and also opened fire at the other mourners, killing about eight others and injuring several others.
“After the attack, they fled the scene and everyone is linking the attack to the operation carried out on Thursday and Friday by the troops of Operation Whirl Stroke during which they killed three militia leaders who were loyal to the late Gana.”
Confirming the development, the Chairman of Katsina-Ala LGA, Mr Alfred Atera who said nine persons lost their lives in the attack said the attack may not be unconnected to the earlier operation carried out by troops of the OPWS in the LGA.
“Nine persons were killed at a burial on Saturday. It was a reprisal. You know that Janta was killed in the earlier operation by OPWS. So I strongly believe it was a reprisal.”
The Chairman said three other persons who were critically injured in the attack were taken to an undisclosed hospital for medical attention while only four of the murdered mourners were from Katsina-Ala.
He said: “Five of the victims including the in-law of the deceased man came from Vandeikya to witness the burial of their in-law and got killed by the gunmen.
“I strongly believe that the gunmen only wanted to make a statement by storming that burial ceremony and killing the people. It is not that they have anything with the man that was being buried. It is sad.”
The Chairman who described the attack as unfortunate confirmed that among the dead was the Kindred Head, Zaki Gande.
Speaking on the incident, the Force Commander of OPWS, Major General Kevin Aligbe who confirmed the attack however dismissed insinuations that the attack was a reprisal for the killing of three wanted militia leaders linked to the late ‘Gana’.
General Aligbe who vowed to track down the perpetrators of the dastardly act said there was an ongoing operation in that axis of the state in order to rid the communities of the armed gangs.
He said: “It is true that we are on operation around that area and the reason is that these boys (militia) have been killing people and extorting them, so whatever happened yesterday (Saturday) is not as a result of what we are doing because some of them (bandits) have submitted their weapons within the last two weeks or something like that.
“They have just made up their mind that they are going to make the place unsafe for law-abiding citizens. But in the next two weeks, we are going to get all of them that is a promise I am making to Benue people.”
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