The military on Tuesday stepped up efforts in hunting down gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, who attacked Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, last Saturday, as troops combed forest and mounted surveillance around areas considered to be security flashpoints in the state.
Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, told reporters at the scene of the attack near Tyo-mu, along Makurdi-Gboko highway that troops had been deployed in the area and are currently combing the forest, which serves as a hideout for the assailants.
He said their makeshift camps had also been destroyed.
Yekini said the patrol of the area by the troops would also help check cases of militia herdsmen and other criminals emerging from the forest across River Benue to unleash mayhem on the people.
Yekini, who was at the scene of the attack with the Security Adviser to the Benue State Governor, Col. Paul Hemba (rtd), stated that after the attack, his troops immediately moved in to clear the area, and would remain in the area for the next few days.
He said: “We brought you journalists here so you can see for yourselves the area where the governor was attacked. We were informed on Saturday some hours after the incident took place and I deployed my men who started searching into the Abinsi forest for the gunmen.
“I came on Sunday with more troops to check the situation. We started combing the area and the forest and discovered some camps and destroyed them. We should not be judged by this singular assignment. We have accepted it was a security breach and we will take action.
“We have identified and destroyed some camps in the forest but yet to arrest anyone.”
He said permanent patrol will be set up around the axis to maintain order in the area.
According to him, since coming on board three years ago, the military operation has killed over 100 criminals, with close to 700 weapons recovered in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States.
He added that the highest number of arms recovery was made in Benue State.
He said the military had improved security, adding that notorious criminals like Terwase Akwaza, a.k.a Gana, based in Sankera axis had also been killed.
Yekini said some of Gana’s top lieutenants, numbering about 10, were among those killed, adding that the military will get the rest of them now on the run.
“It is because of some local interest that some of these criminals have been shielded and I appeal to residents to volunteer information about bandits’ hideouts for necessary action and their refusal to provide useful information had been our challenge,” he stated.
Hemba told journalists that though troops of Operation Whirl Stroke and other security agents arrived promptly, they could not get the assailants who retreated into the forest.
He said so far, no arrest had been made in connection with the attack.
When asked if some of the people seen by journalists at the river were questioned by the police, he confirmed that they were questioned, but no arrest was made.
Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi