By Kingsley Nwezeh
Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke deployed in the North Central part of the country yesterday clashed with members of a militia group in Benue State, killing two while five others were arrested.
The group is linked to a militia leader, Terwase Akwaza, who was killed by soldiers last week on his way to Markurdi after embracing the amnesty programme of the Benue State Government.
The state government had expressed shock at the manner of his killing after he surrendered with some of his fighters, but the military authorities said he was killed in a shootout with the troops.
His death sparked fears of reprisal from members of his group in Benue and Taraba States axis where they allegedly operated.
A military update issued by the Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO) said following actionable intelligence on the possible hideout of remnants of late Gana’s militia elements around Adu general area in Chanchanji council ward of Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, troops of Sector 2 deployed in Gbise in Katsina Ala Local Government Area of Benue State in conjunction with troops of Sector 4 conducted a joint dawn raid operation on the identified hideout at Adu.
“In the course of the operation, troops had contact with the armed militias who fired at troops as they closed in on their position.
“The gallant troops swiftly responded with superior fire forcing the bandits to flee the camp in disarray into the surrounding forest. In the course of the encounter, two armed militia were neutralised,” it said.
The update, which was signed by the Coordinator of DDMO, Major General John Enenche, said two locally made pistols were recovered from the militia.
It said troops carried out another raid operation on another identified armed militia hideout at Chanchanji in Takum LGA of Taraba State and Sai in Katsina Ala LGA of Benue State during which three suspects namely: Saalu Igbua Terlumun, Benjamin Valentine and Milton Gbegi, were arrested at Sai while Isaac Hilega known also as Bawasa, and Godwin Terwase were arrested at Chanchanji.
The DDMO said the troops combed the hideouts leading to the recovery of 16 handsets, charms and some substances suspected to be Indian hemp.
According to the statement, “The suspects are currently undergoing preliminary investigation after which they will be handed over to the police for further action.
“Currently, the troops have dominated the area with fighting patrols to deter armed elements and deny them freedom of movement.”