By Peter Duru, with agency report
No fewer than 22 persons were reported killed, weekend, in Kaduna, Benue and Niger states by gunmen.
In Kaduna, at least 10 persons were killed by suspected bandits during separate attacks in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
The bandits also kidnapped an unspecified number of people, mainly women, from the communities during the operation that lasted several hours.
Although the state and police authorities are yet to comment on the incident, a local security source said the bandits had earlier attacked some villages in neighbouring Niger State where they kidnapped some people, and while on their way back to their camp passing through Birnin Gwari, they were attacked by some local vigilantes at Ungwan Bula, Unguwar Dafillo and Ijinga villages in Randagi district of Birnin-Gwari.
In retaliation, the bandits were said to have returned to the villages on Saturday morning and killed 10 persons, including six vigilante members and four villagers. They also kidnapped an unspecified number of people during the operation.
Similarly, bandits also blocked the Kaduna-Birnin-Gwari Road at about 10 am on Saturday and attacked motorists.
According to the Chairman of Birnin-Gwari Vanguards for Security and Good Governance, Ibrahim Nagwari, a final year student of Science Secondary School, Birnin-Gwari, who was on his way to Kaduna for the JAMB-UMTE registration and three other passengers, escaped with bullet wounds, as the bandits sprayed bullets on their vehicle at Manini village along Birnin-Gwari Kaduna Highway.
Nagwari said the student is awaiting surgery for the removal of the bullets on his shoulder at Jibrin Maigwari General Hospital in Birnin-Gwari.
While commending the local government authorities for taking care of the hospital bills of those injured in the attacks, the residents called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, set up a special centre for JAMB examinations in Birnin-Gwari to reduce the risk of students travelling far down to Kaduna for registration.
Kill monarch, 8 mourners in Benue
In Benue State, a traditional ruler and eight other mourners were reportedly killed during a burial ceremony by bandits suspected to be loyalists of the late 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 that the well-armed gunmen stormed the venue of the burial, 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.
“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 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.”
It’s reprisal for murder of Gana’s men by military— Witness
Confirming the development, Chairman of Katsina-Ala LGA, Mr Alfred Atera, who stated that nine persons lost their lives in the attack, said the attack might 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 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.”
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’.
Aligbe, who vowed to track down the perpetrators of the dastardly act, said there was an ongoing operation in that axis of the state 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.”
Recall that a wanted militia leader, Iortyom Wuave, also known as Janta, and two gang members of the late Terwase Agwaza also known as Gana militia group, Terdoo Kiorga alias Apaapa and Orkulam Mom alias Orbutee, were killed in a gun battle with troops of the joint security operation codenamed Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS last week.
Gunmen kill 3 in Niger
The Niger Police Command has confirmed the killing of three people by gunmen in Ebbo and Ndagbegi villages of Lavun Local Government Area of the state .
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Monday Kuryas, who confirmed this, yesterday, in Minna said the incident occurred, yesterday, at about 5am when the gunmen attacked the village.
According to him, a detachment of police tactical squad and the military have been deployed to the area and have launched a manhunt with a view to tracking down the criminals.
“We appeal to residents to assist security personnel deployed with reliable information that could aid in apprehending the miscreants in their midst.