• Police confirm nine deaths, arrest 13
By George Okoh in Makurdi
Thirteen suspected members of a cult group were at the weekend killed in a skirmish with youths of Lessel community in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State.
It was gathered that the bloody clash which lasted over two hours also left several persons with serious injuries.
An eyewitness told THISDAY that the crisis started when members of the cult group who were in the town for a convention allegedly attacked and killed a commercial motorbike operator whose motorbike they had attempted to snatch.
According to the eyewitness, “The group had come to Lessel town in their numbers last Saturday night for what we gathered was their annual convention in the town.
“They ran into the commercial motorcycle rider whom they engaged to convey some of them to Joy Guest House in Lessel, venue of the meeting where some of them also put up.
“On completing the assignment of conveying them to their destination, the cult members demanded the key of motorbike but the rider refused to surrender his bike to them.
“They descended on him and killed him instantly. But luckily the news of the murder of the innocent commercial motorbike operator filtered into town and the youths in Lessel mobilised and stormed Joy Guest House with dangerous weapons.
“A bloody fight ensued, some of the cult members were hacked to death, while others who were captured alive led the youths to where other members of the group were hiding. They were all rounded up by the youths but not after 13 of them, aside the bike rider had been killed.
“It took the intervention of the police who stormed the area to stop the killing of more of the group members, most of whom had been beaten to pulp by the angry youths.
“The police were able to rescue other members of the cult group from the angry mob after firing warning shots in the air and dispersing them with tear-gas.
“As we speak, there is blood everywhere in Lessel town and there is palpable tension in the town while some people are also moving out of their homes for fear of reprisal by members of the cult group.”
Reacting, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ene Okoh, said: “When we got the information, my men moved in quickly and arrested 13 persons who were involved in the fracas but I can confirm that nine persons were killed in the clash.
The commissioners who disclosed that the command had reinforced security in the town, attributed the bloody clash to a rival cult fight.