At least, four people have killed in a gun battle between soldiers of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) and bandits suspected to be loyalists of the slain criminal kingpin, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as ‘Gana’ at Abaji.
The incident happened in the Shitile axis of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State.
Our correspondent gathered that 13 people also sustained gun wounds during the incident which happened on Wednesday evening in the troubled local government area.
Residents said that the Gana ‘boys’ had stormed the Abaji market about 4:00 pm on Wednesday and started shooting guns sporadically at people carrying out commercial activities but were repelled by soldiers who arrived on the scene on time.
A resident of the area, who pleaded anonymity, said the gunmen may have killed some people and wounded many others, stressing however that he could not ascertain exact numbers of causality due to the pandemonium which ensued.
“Many people however said they saw dead bodies taken away in a security truck.
“But I can’t ascertain the exact numbers of those killed, however many people were wounded,” the resident said.
The Chairman of Kastina Ala Local Government Area, Alfred Atera, however, told our correspondent by telephone that a total of three persons were killed and 13 others injured during the attack.
He said it was Abaji market day in Kastina-Ala and that people were going about their businesses when the bandits, between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm, suddenly opened gunfire on them, killing one person on the spot and injuring 13 others.
Atera said the soldiers of OPWS saved the day as they quickly intervened and repelled the attackers, killing two of them, bringing numbers of the dead to three during the process which they also recovered weapons from the fleeing bandits.
Other witnesses told our correspondent that the heavy gunfire exchange between the soldiers and the bandits caused fear among residents, adding that a soldier was among the wounded while most of the bandits may have also escaped with bullet injuries.
Force Commander of OPWS, Major General Adeyemi Yekini, however, declined comment on the matter.
But the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Anene, confirmed one person killed in the market.
Anene said the traders were about closing for the day’s business at about 6:30 pm when the bandits, disguised as buyers, stormed the market and started shooting sporadically, killing the one person.
She said 11 people were injured and that the combined efforts of the Police, as well as other security agencies, repelled the bandits who were forced to retreat into the forest.
The PPRO added that the bodies of the dead have been deposited in the morgue while the injured taken to Kastina-Ala General Hospital for treatment just as the scene of the incident has been cordoned by security operatives.