Seven Nigerian soldiers were on Monday gruesomely murdered by bandits during a rescue operation in a forest along Mararaba-Udege road in Nasarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
The soldiers, who were killed in an ambush by the bandits, were from the 177 Guards Battalion, Shitu Alao Barracks, Keffi, Nasarawa State.
According to a reliable source, who does not want to be named for security reasons, the slain soldiers were part of a team of 13 soldiers led into the forest by Felix Kura, a captain.
The soldiers’ mission, the source claimed, was to rescue some residents of the state who were abducted by bandits and taken into the forest.
Out of the 14 military men, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that seven including Mr Kura; Yakubu Bati, a sergeant; Kefas Iliya, a lance corporal, and four others whose identity could not be confirmed as of the time of filing this report, lost their lives.
“As soon as they ran into the ambush and they realised they were being overpowered, Mr Kura was said to have told his colleagues including his “cover” to escape,” the source added.
The authorities of the 177 Guards battalion have informed the families of the slain soldiers of their fate “and signal has been sent to the headquarters,” PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
But the spokesperson to the Nigerian Army, Sagir Musa, a brigadier general, denied knowledge of the development.
“I am not aware. I don’t have that information,” Mr Musa told our reporter on the phone on Thursday.
Family confirms officer’s death
An elder brother to the late Mr Kura, Fabian Benjamin, however, confirmed the incident to our reporter on the phone.
A distraught Mr Benjamin expressed bitterness and disappointment at the death of his brother.
He feared that the family is scared to break the news to their
septuagenarian father, Benjamin Kura, whom he feared may not be strong enough to withstand the shock of the sad news.
Apart from the aged father, Mr Benjamin, the family’s eldest child, also expressed sadness over the fate of his late brother’s young wife, Susan, whom he noted was yet to bear him a child.
He said the late officer was just decorated as a captain in August, 2020.
“My brother read Linguistics at the Benue State University and graduated in 2009. He served in Oyo State in 2010 and joined the Nigerian Army in 2012. He loved the job and was very passionate about it. Some of his commandants even when he was posted to the North East confirmed his bravery and loyalty. I am very depressed right now,” Mr Benjamin told our reporter on the phone.
He said his late brother’s remains will be interred on Tuesday in his home state, Benue.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that on Monday the battalion received reports of various abductions along the Mararaba-Udege road and its commander asked Mr Kura to “pull out” alongside 13 other officers to rescue the abductees.
Multiple sources said one of the abductees was a nursing mother whose child was abandoned while the mother was taken.
“Another man was also killed during the operation by the bandits. So no one even knew how many were the victims but only 14 officers were drafted to the scene,” a source said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the command became worried when communication with the troop was lost and their whereabouts unknown.
The command subsequently sent out about 100 soldiers on a search and rescue mission of the platoon.
“That was how seven bodies were found including the team lead,” another source added.
Kidnapping in Nasarawa
Nasarawa State has in recent times been one of Nigeria’s hotbeds kidnapping, armed robberies and other forms of violence.
Apart from the reported cases along the Mararaba-Udege road, the Deputy Vice-chancellor of Anchor University, Lagos, Johnson Fatokun, was also abducted on his way from Jos, Plateau State capital, to Keffi, on Monday.
Mr Fatokun, a professor of Computational Mathematics, was only released on Wednesday after ransom had been paid.
According to a statement shared with PREMIUM TIMES by the university’s assistant registrar, strategy and communications, Sanusi Okesola, Mr Fatokun’s release was “secured after negotiations with his abductors.”
In a telephone conversation, Mr Okesola added that the lecturer was immediately conveyed to Abuja from where he would be flown to Lagos to resume work.
“The professor was not tortured, and he is in high spirit. We only thank everyone including the leadership and members of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, the university community, the Nigerian security operatives and all Nigerians who prayed along with the university,” Okesola told our reporter on the phone.
He added that though N20 million was demanded by the abductors, the ransom paid was not N20 million. He, however, declined to disclose how much was paid.
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