TRAGEDY: Bloody Clash In Nigeria Leaves Many Dead, Others Injured

by Adabanija Kamorudeen

No fewer than 45 persons including a family of seven were feared dead following the invasion of Gbagir community in Ukum Local Government Area, LGA, of Benue State, by suspected armed Fulani militia supported by local Tiv bandits in a fight to oust another Tiv militia gang in the area.

It was gathered that most of the dead were members of the rival militia gangs while about 12 innocent farmers were caught in the cross fire which also left over 30 persons injured and many others declared missing.

A traditional ruler in the area who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bloody fight which started Tuesday morning after a Tiv militia leader in Ukum LGA, kidnapped another Fulani militia leader, one Alhaji Gana and his family members, who were known for banditry and kidnappings, from neighbouring Chinkai community in Wukari LGA of Taraba State.

He said, “after kidnapping them, he asked for N100million ransom but he was given N5million. After collecting the money he killed the hostages.

“The murder of the hostages sparked outrage among his gang members in Taraba State. This happened over the weekend.

“What followed was that another militia gang leader in Ukum now went and join forces with the Fulani militia gang in Taraba to help them eliminate the rival gang in Ukum that killed their leader, Alhaji Gana.

“The essence was to enable him be the head of militia in Ukum. The combined forces of Fulani and Tiv militia gangs started moving into the bushes of Gbagir in their hundreds from Sunday to sack the gang that killed Alhaji Gana. And on Tueday morning the bloody fight ensued.

“From what we gathered over 45 persons who were mainly bandits have been killed, though we have record of over 12 farmers who were caught in the cross fire. Over 30 others were injured while some are also missing. We learnt that the gangs are also evacuating some of their dead members.

“Sadly caught in the cross fire was a family of seven in Tse Adzandeh Mbasaa, Mbajiga, Ityuluv, Torov. They were all members of the Adzandeh family.

“The armed men have also spread to the bushes of Gbeji, Chito and Afia in their numbers but cannot move into the residential area because of the timely intervention of troops of Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS.

“In fact when people noticed the movement of the armed Fulani militia into Benue communities, the Chiefs informed the political leaders who immediately briefed Governor Hyacinth Alia who equally alerted the military for swift action.

“It was this timely response of the Governor to the intel and the intervention of the OPWS that saved the people of Ukum LGA because we gathered that they planned to kill hundreds of people in Ukum as revenge for the murdered Fulani militia leader but it is their gang war and innocent residents have nothing to do with that.

“Over 1,000 of them have laid siege on Ukum LGA as we speak that is why we are appealling to the military to save us before they wipe out our innocent families.

“We need more security posts in and around the area and we also appeal to the Governors of Benue and Taraba States to team up and put an end to the activities of these cross border criminals. They should support the military with logistics also.”

“As we speak these people are still in the bushes in Ukum, they have not moved back to Taraba. The Fulani militia are being supported by a Tiv militia group to eliminate another Tiv militia gang and as they fight the innocent locals will be killed.

“There is urgent need to protect the other three villages because we are hearing that the first phase of the attack is in Gbagir while Chito, Gbeji and Afia might be next.”

“We are also appealing for fortified military presence in all the Benue and Taraba border communities.”

Confirming the development, the lawmaker representing Ukum state constituency, Ezra Nyiyongo said 20 corpses had been recovered.

Effort to reach the Force Commander of OPWS, Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia was unsuccessful but a military source confirmed the development.

According to him, “these are militia men killing each other. Yes, we acknowledge that some people may have been caught in the cross fire, but the majority of the people that were killed were members of the militia gangs in the area.

“But be that as it may, our troops are in Ukum, to ensure that the attack does not affect innocent people.”

Contacted, the Benue State Police Commissioner, Mr. Emmanuel Adesina who confirmed the development said more officers were deployed to the area adding that five corpses had also been recovered from the scene.

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