Three persons were feared killed in a late night assault on Benue communities Thursday, residents have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The victims were ambushed by assailants who hit villages around Anyiin, a major town in Logo Local Government Area that serves as a base for police special forces and has one of the biggest IDP camps.
PREMIUM TIMES broke the news of the attacks on Thursday night, citing residents’ accounts that five persons were in critical condition from gunshot wounds.
They were all rescued and taken to NKST Hospital in Anyiin by police special forces, witnesses said.
But two of the five victims died overnight, Anyiin residents told PREMIUM TIMES Friday morning.
The first victim who died was identified as 40-year-old Orduuga Kumaga. Another victim was identified as Mnenge Orson, aged 30.
The attacks claimed a third victim whom residents identified as a man of Hausa ethnic group. He was riding on a motorcycle from his village in Akwana to Anyiin when he was killed.
He was reportedly on the bike with a Tiv man, who was also critically wounded by gunshots and was receiving treatments at the hospital in Anyiin.
A female victim, Kanan Munduga, 18, has been transferred to Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi.
Kavera Alfred, a medical personnel at NKST Hospital, said Ms. Munduga was transferred because she had lost too much blood than they could handle at his hospital.
The doctor said he was attending to two more victims, Abraham Terer, 23, and Ambua Shimer, a 40-year-old woman.
The doctor said the victim’s medical bills had been covered by Terkura Suswam, a politician and founder of Ashi Polytechnic.
“He also helped facilitate the transfer of Ms. Munduga to the Teaching Hospital in Makurdi,” he said.
The doctor said the two remaining victims at his hospital had been stabilised and should be able to recover there if their treatment go on as hoped.
The police have not commented on the reported attacks despite repeated requests for comments from PREMIUM TIMES between Thursday night and Friday morning.
PREMIUM TIMES reached Habila Joshak, the deputy inspector-general in charge of operation who has been coordinating police efforts against herdsmen attacks in the area, but he did not reply.
Fatai Owoseni, the police commissioner in Benue, also did not return requests for comments.
Similarly, both Moses Yamu, the police spokesperson in Benue, and Suleiman Zubeiru, the area commander in Katsina-Ala, did not respond to requests for comments.
Residents said they were alarmed that the attackers also hit Tsukwa village, which is about a mile from Anyiin where police special forces are stationed.
“If they could still return to Tsukwa to carry out another attack despite its proximity to Anyiin, then we can all conclude that there’s no security and even those of us in Anyiin are not safe,” a community chief told PREMIUM TIMES on strict anonymity Friday morning.
Tsukwa was one of the seven villages that recorded casualties in the January 1 attacks linked to suspected herdsmen.
It was the only village that was somewhat accessible as at last month when PREMIUM TIMES visited communities in Logo LGA.
“The special forces personnel are usually at their station every night,” a resident said. “This is something that had been reported to their bosses but no changes came.”
The special forces reportedly chased the attackers and rescued some victims, but no arrests had been made in connection to the attacks as at 9:00 a.m. Friday, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Since January 1, hundreds of villagers have been killed in herdsmen-linked attacks that have now become regular around Benue State.
The escalation was said to be in response to the anti-open grazing law that came into effect on November 1 in Benue.
Between January 1 and 3, suspected herdsmen stormed the villages in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas and butchered people, according to witnesses and Benue government accounts.
Seventy-two of the victims were given mass burial at a newly-built graveyard near Makurdi, the state capital, on January 12.
The state government says the attackers did not begin their assaults because of the new grazing law, citing scores of herdsmen-linked attacks that had been recorded across the states since 2011.
The herdsmen association has regularly accused Benue residents of rustling their livestock and sometimes, killing herdsmen.
They, however, denied being responsible for the deadly attacks on villagers.
The perpetrators of last night’s attacks used guns, but the January 1 killers came with machetes and cutlasses.
The police insist that they are capable of degrading the attackers, with the Inspector-General Idris Ibrahim sending additional five special forces units to the 10 that were initially deployed mid-January.
But as the attacks have continued with President Muhammadu Buhari frequently coming under pressure to take action, he ordered a deployment of troops to support the police for six weeks.
The deployment, which was announced on Wednesday, would last from February 15 to March 31.