Violence continued in Benue State at the weekend as suspected Fulani herdsmen ambushed a police patrol team at Tse-Akpam Azege in Logo Local Government Area.
The patrol van was burnt while two of the police officers have been declared missing after the attack that on Saturday afternoon.
A source from the area, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that the herdsmen took the security agents unawares, forcing them to flee, leaving their Hilux van.
The Chairman of Logo Local Government Area, Mr. Richard Nyajo, who confirmed the incident, lamented the seemingly intractable attacks on his people. He expressed worry that the attackers now focus on security agents posted to ensure peace in the area. Nyajo said one of the attacked policemen was receiving treatment in a hospital at Ayilamo.
According to him, the commissioner of police in charge of mobile officers arrived in the state yesterday morning to lead the search and rescue efforts.
Nyajo said two motorcycles were carted away by the suspected herdsmen who also attacked Udu village in the local government.
The Benue State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, who also confirmed the incident said the policemen were returning from a confidence-building mission in remote villages of the local council when the suspected herdsmen opened fire on them at Tse Akpam village.
“When my men were coming back, at a point in Azege, they started hearing gunfire from inside the bush by suspected herdsmen. There was a serious exchange of gunfire. The attackers burnt the police Toyota Hilux van after the officers inside fled into nearby bushes.
“As a result, four policemen were missing, but two were later found unhurt. The two officers had rejoined their colleagues, hoping to see the remaining two,” the commissioner said.
The Saturday attack on policemen in the local government was the second of its kind since the renewed invasion of communities in the area by the herdsmen on January 1, 2018.
Also, gunmen attacked Bakin Kogi village in Southern Kaduna at the weekend, killings four persons.
The victims were said to be palm wine tappers who came from another community to conduct their business Barkin Kogi. They were attacked in the bush and one managed to escape with serious injuries.
A source from the area, who preferred anonymity, said: “Those that were killed were not members of Bakin Kogi community but they were palm wine tappers from another community.
“They were in the bush tapping palm wine when they were attacked by the gunmen. For now, I cannot tell you where the attackers came from, but they are not from our community here.
“Policemen have visited the place and evacuated the bodies. The area is calm as I speak with you.”
Another source claimed that the attackers, at around 9:00 a.m. stormed the village from the outskirts and shot sporadically at innocent persons, killing four and injuring one.
“Other people at the scene escaped unhurt while the victims died of bullet wounds”, the source added.
When contacted on phone for confirmation, the Commissioner of Police, Austin Iwar, requested more time to respond, saying so many things were happening at the same time. “I cannot confirm this to you now. Give me till tomorrow,” he said.
But the police command’s spokesman, Mukhtar Aliyu, was quoted to have confirmed the incident, though he could not give details at press time.
“The District Police Officer and the Area Commander are collating assessment reports at the affected community,” Aliyu said.
Three persons were also reportedly killed at the weekend when suspected herdsmen attacked Zangwra village in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State.
The national president of Irigwe Development Association (IDA), Sunday Abdu, stated in Jos: “Three people were killed on Saturday night by Fulani herdsmen. One of the victims was riding a bike while the two others were walking on the road. This happened at Zangwra village near a checkpoint in Bassa Local Government.”
According to him, the attackers have changed the tactics of killing their targets on the farms to “ambushing our people on the road.”
Abdu recalled that recently, three people were killed and their bodies burnt on Miango road in southwest of Barakin Dangurugu settlement in Jos North Local Council.
“This is a road on which people travel to other places, including Abuja. How do you want them to travel? Which other facility do you want them to use when they want to travel? Something urgent has to be done by government and security operatives to arrest the bad situation.”
The Spokesman of the Special Task Force (STF) code-named Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Major Adam Umar, who confirmed the killing, said the crime was perpetrated by gunmen. He said his men mobilised as soon as they got wind of the attack but the assailants escaped before the security agents arrived on the scene.