Hundred of people have been killed by suspected gunmen who stormed many communities in Katsina-Ala Local Government areas of Benue State between Saturday and Sunday.
While local authorities said at least 100 bodies were recovered from some villages, a witness from one of the affected villages said he counted 70 dead bodies in the area he lived, while another man said over 150 people were killed in his locality.
Some officials alleged that the attacks were perpetrated by some militants loyal to the notorious Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as ‘Gana’, who was killed by Nigerian troops in September 2020.
They alleged that the attacks were carried out in cohort with suspected herders.
‘We recovered over 100 dead bodies’
The Chairman of Katsina-Ala LGA, Alfred Atera, told journalists in Makurdi on Monday, that over 100 people were killed during the weekend in the four wards of Mbayongo, Yooyo, Utange and Mbatyula/Mberev in a coordinated manner.
Atera said security personnel, though did their best were allegedly overwhelmed by the combined forces of Gana boys and herders.
“More than 100 people have been killed in different places. Some people were able to claim the corpses for burial. I told the military that the attackers have developed a strategy; they are not attacking one place, if they attack a place now, the next thing you hear is that they are in Yooyo and at the same time they are attacking Utange.
“So, the military is going here and there. Before they could get to a particular place, the attackers would have finished and got to another point, that is the situation in Katsina-Ala.
“There is no military connivance, but I am suspecting the existing bandits here and I think they are trying to win cheap popularity. They are conniving with the Fulani herders so that we (government) will consider them, which we have refused to do. The Gana remnants are conniving with them to cause the havoc and unrest in our area,” Atera said.
Speaking further, his spokesman, Tertsea Benga, listed the initial communities attacked between Saturday and Sunday to include: Vingir, Tse Nyipila and Tse Guji all in Mbayongo ward, adding that the attackers proceeded to Kenvanger in Mbatyula council ward and that by Sunday afternoon, most of the corpses were recovered from the bush.
Before the latest attack, Benga recalled that half of the communities in Yooyo council ward were earlier sacked by the alleged armed invaders who killed many people.
Residents recount horrific experiences
Residents of the affected communities have recounted their experiences.
Some of them, who spoke to our correspondent by telephone on Monday, claimed that more villagers were still missing while the actual number of those killed could not be ascertained as several communities were currently under attacks by armed invaders.
A resident of one of the affected village, David Zungwe, said his Kenvanger community in Mbatyula Council Ward was completely ravaged by the invaders who besieged them on Saturday.
“They killed more than 70 people in my community, many others are still missing and I can’t even say where some of my relations are right now.
“I am talking to you from a hideout right now. Everybody has left my village. The few people who sneaked in today (Monday) came under attack by cattle herders and seven persons were killed,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, a clergy of an NKST Church, Rev. Jacob Bende, described the attacks as horrific, stressing that in his Atumbe village and surrounding communities in Mberev Council Ward, over 150 people were killed while many houses were burnt.
Bende added that many of his church members in Aker were missing following Saturday’s invasion which caused pandemonium.
“They (attackers) were moving from one place to another. As they trekked along the villages, they attacked and killed people they come across on the way. It was such a coordinated thing so that everybody was on the run and we have no one to intervene for us.
“Our farms were destroyed; lives and property are gone. My members are taken away and now we have fled to Tor Donga, a border town with Taraba State for refuge.”
Also, Josh Nyipila, of Tse-Atsethem in Mbayongo Council Ward, whose uncle was killed while struggling to flee, said it was disheartening that the invaders could unleash such terror on the locals at midday.
“They (attackers) came unexpectedly in broad daylight and in a highly coordinated manner. By Sunday, an attempt was made to quickly go and bury him after his body was found but while the few youths who went to scout for the fallen bodies were in the process of burial, the attackers came back and were shooting heavily so they ran away.
“When the shooting stopped, they again mobilised and went to the village to pick up the corpse during which they also identified few more corpses and took it away. As we speak, no unarmed person can go there.
“Families don’t know where other members are and sadly, there is ongoing killing in the area. All the villagers have fled to Tor Donga for refuge,” Nyipila said.