Two armed bandits who were dressed in military camouflage, have caused a commotion in Benue State, Vanguard reports.
The bandits said to be loyalists of the late militia leader, Terwase Agwaza, alias Gana, were on Wednesday reportedly killed in a gun battle with troops of the joint military operation code-named Operation Whirl Stroke, OPWS, at Abaji in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State, hours after they opened fire on traders at Abaji market, killing one person and injuring 13 others.
Vanguard gathered that the troops of OPWS responded to a distress call from the market at the time of the attack.
A source said on getting to the scene, the attackers while beating a retreat engaged the soldiers in a shootout.
“It all started at about 4:30 to 5pm on Wednesday when we started hearing sporadic gunshots at Abaji market and people ran for their lives.
“We quickly alerted troops of OPWS who responded promptly and came to repel the bandits. In the gun battle that ensued, the soldiers killed two of the bandits and recovered their AK47 rifle and many live ammunition but others escaped with bullet wounds.
“It was later discovered that one of the traders was killed by the bandits, while 13 others sustained bullet wounds but they were all rushed to hospitals in Katsina-Ala,’’ the source said.
When contacted, the Chairman of Katsina-Ala LGA, Mr. Alfred Atera, who confirmed the attack and the number of casualty, blamed it on loyalists of the late Gana who were demanding revenue from markets in Katsina-Ala LGA.
“They are Gana’s men, they do not want any market to operate in Katsina-Ala because, according to them, the past local government council chairmen were paying them revenue and that when I came in, I stopped giving them revenue, that is the problem.
“Only recently, they also attacked Tor Donga, and now they have attacked Abaji. They are out to attack markets.
“In this attack at Abaji market, they shot 14 persons and one died that yesterday, while 13 others are in hospitals. But the military went after them and gunned down two of them and recovered one AK47 rifle and live ammunition.
“I must commend the efforts of the military and the police. They are doing their best and we will continue to assist in any way possible and eventually Katsina-Ala will be completely secured from the activities of these bandits,” the LG chairman said.
Confirming the attack, the Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, DSP, Catherine Anene, said the corpse of the dead had been deposited at the Primary Health Care Centre Abaji, while the injured persons were receiving treatment at the General Hospital Katsina-Ala.
“More patrol teams were immediately drafted to the scene to assist officers on ground. Cordon and search operation is also in progress,” she added.