The captain and 11 soldiers killed on Monday by bandits in Konshisha Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State were taken out in batches of five and seven, with their bodies set ablaze and dumped in a forest near Gbinde Village, according to a classified document seen by FIJ.
The 11 soldiers who died alongside the captain are one warrant officer, two sergeants, three corporals, one lance corporal and four privates. FIJ is holding on to their names because it could not establish that their families had been officially notified of their deaths as of press time.
According to the document, the captain was deployed as Ag OC EX AYEM AKPATUMA III covering Katsina-Ala LGA and environs, and had done “credibly well” for the period and made several arrests of suspected criminals and their informants within the general area.
But on April 5, he went on a routine movement to the joint OPWS/72 SF location in Oju LGA, which is under his control, accompanied by four soldiers with a GPMG and 2,000 rounds of ammo.
“On passing through Konshinsha, which is a regular route used by own troops deployed in Oju and Kastina-Ala, they were ambushed by a group of armed bandits from Konshinsha. The bandits were well-armed and encircled the officer and the troops with him,” read the document, signed by P. A. Onifade, a Major.
“After a long wait for the troops without any sign of their arrival, troops from Oju went out with a patrol of soldiers led by 92NA/33/1251 WO Solomo Augustine. The reinforcement troops came to Konshisha and also failed to return.
“After several hours, calls were made to their mobile phones and their numbers were going through. The phones rang but were not answered. Consequently, a robust search and rescue joint operation of own troops and OPWS were sent to search for them on the same day.”
The incident report stated that locals told the search team that the bandits were from Konshisha and had made away with the troops.
“The joint search ops commenced advance with close Air Sp from TAC Makurdi for rescue ops and search of the missing officer and the 11 other soldiers,” it continued.
“During the advance, several contacts were made with the armed bandits, who were again in large numbers and opened fire on the advancing troops. Close air support was called in to support the advancing troops and lots of the bandits were KIA [Killed In Action], while several others scattered and fled in different directions.
“Over 10 of them were killed and one AK 47 rifle belonging to one of the missing soldiers was recovered. The advance continued till night and at about 061935A Apr 21 with the help of a local informants, the corpses of the missing officer and soldiers were found.”
The bodies were found burnt and dumped in a forest near a village called Gbinde in Konshisha LGA. The two Hilux vans conveying the troops were also found burnt.
“Qty 12 x AK47 and one GPMG and over 2000 rounds of 7.62mm NATO belt links were carted away by the bandits,” it said. “The clearer operation is still ongoing; more contacts were reported to have been made on 7 April, 2020, and close air support was called.”
Benue State is notorious for its numerous security challenges, such as farmer-herder clashes, activities of armed militia groups, kidnapping, armed banditry, communal clashes and boundary disputes.
The 72 SF Bn and the Operation WHIRL STROKE (OPWS) are the military formations/units that often operate jointly to support civil authorities in keeping peace.
As reported by FIJ on Thursday, troops returned to raid Konshisha Local Government on Wednesday, with a local saying many were killed and houses burnt.
“Konshisha Local Government in Benue is under vengeful siege by the military in retaliation for the killing of soldiers,” he said. “Houses, women and children are displaced. Communities are being burnt as we speak.”
Mohammed Yerima, a Brigadier General and Director of Army Public Relations, confirmed the attack in a statement on Friday morning, although, by his account, a captain and 10 soldiers were killed.
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