The Force Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), Adeyemi Yekini, said on Monday that troops killed 21 armed herdsmen and lost one soldier in Benue State.
Mr Yekini told reporters at the Tactical Air Command Headquarters, Makurdi, OPWS headquarters, that two soldiers also sustained various degrees of injures during the operation and were receiving treatment at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Base Hospital.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that OPWS covers Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states and was launched six weeks ago.
The commander explained that 15 armed herdsmen were killed on Saturday along Gbajimba-Akor Tomata axis during gunshot exchange between troops and armed herdsmen that lasted for about 2 hours.
He confirmed that OPWS lost one soldier during the encounter while two officers sustained gunshot injuries.
“During the firefight, the Mi35 spotted a group of about 20 armed herdsmen riding on motorcycles moving along the axis towards Nasarawa State.
“Fifteen of the armed herdsmen on the motorcycles were neutralised with rocket fire from the Mi35 while others escaped with varying degrees of injuries.
“OPWS troops lost one soldier while two others sustained gunshots wounds. The two personnel are currently responding to treatment at NAF Base Hospital.”
Mr Yekini further disclosed that the six other armed herdsmen were killed in Guma on August 4, when troops made contact with armed militiamen moving with a large herd of cattle between Benue and Nasarawa states.
He said the troops recovered one AK 47 rifle, two AK 47 magazines, 60 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition and five motorcycles during the operations.
Mr Yekini also said that OPWS raided Tse Akwaza camp belonging to Benue’s notorious gang leader, Terwase Akwaza (aka Gana) on Sunday, using airstrikes by Mi35 which neutralised key buildings before troops moved in for mop-up operation.
According to him, nothing significant was found, adding that it was not clear whether or not Gana was killed during the assault.
“It was not clear if Gana was killed during the assault, but a trail of blood seen in the building suspected to be where he slept, suggests he might have been hit.
“A motorcycle usually used by Gana was also badly damaged during the air strike. Efforts are in progress to confirm if Gana was killed in the attack and if not, we will still go after him.”
He further disclosed that OPWS also recovered assorted automatic weapons and ammunition from armed militiamen since the beginning of the operation six weeks ago.
“OPWS recovered seven automatic weapons from armed militiamen in the past six weeks alone, four in Nasarawa and three in Benue State.
“In all, the OPWS has recovered a total of 40 weapons, 1,100 rounds of ammunition while 60 suspects have been arrested since the inception of the operation.
“All the suspects have been handed over to the DSS and Police in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, depending on where they were arrested and the nature of their offences, if security or crime-related.”
The force commander also disclosed that a number of 135,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had returned to their homes in the three states, adding that they were already engaging in various farming activities.
He said that the force had also deployed troops at Daudu IDPs Camp to prevent attacks, adding that they were engaging the Benue Government on the return and rehabilitation of the IDPs back to their homes.