Richard Ginika Izuora
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has denied the report of the alleged massacre by the military in the Konshisha area of Benue as a result of the killing of 11 troops by bandits in the area.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement on Friday described the report as spurious and misleading.
Nwachukwu explained that there had been incessant cases of communal clashes in recent times; among the people of Konshisha and Oju on boundary demarcation and that as part of efforts to resolve the crisis; the Benue government held meetings with stakeholders in local governments with a view to providing a solution to the problem.
According to him, appreciable progress has been made; and a final date fixed for all stakeholders to meet in the disputed areas to demarcate the boundary.
“Trouble started on the eve of the final meeting during Easter holiday with reports that fresh fighting has broken out in the area.
“All along, 72 Special Forces Battalion has troops deployed on the Oju side of the boundary and troops of the battalion were on their way to replenish their colleagues on April 5, when they were attacked by bandits attend Bonta in Konshisha.
“The troops who were under command of a captain were seized at a checkpoint mounted by the so called Bonta Boys; and taken into Konshisha forest where they were all brutally murdered.
“Not satisfied with killing the soldiers, the bandits proceeded to burn all the eleven soldiers and their officer beyond recognition; while their weapons and ammunition were carted away,” he said.
He said that military reinforcements that were dispatched to Bonta the following morning also came under attack; from close to 500 armed youths who had fully occupied Bonta at the time.
He said that the number of youths involved in the attacks suggested that the bandits could not be from Bonta alone; but were joined by bandits from other parts of Konshisha.
The troops repelled the attack after more than four hours of intense fighting; during which military helicopter provided close air support to ground troops, he said.
According to him, 10 bandits were killed during the fight but there were no other civilian casualties in any part of Konshisha till date; apart from the initial 10 bandits eliminated by the troops.