Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) on Wednesday evening, engaged suspected armed bandits in a fierce gun battle at Abaji in Shitile axis of Katsina Ala local government area of Benue state.
Benue state police have confirmed the attack, disclosing that the bandits killed one person during the attack and injured nine others.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Anene, while confirming the attack in a statement Thursday, said: “On 24/03/2021 at about 6:30pm while traders were closing from Abaji Market in Kastina-Ala Local Government area, bandits who disguised themselves as buyers started shooting sporadically and killed one person while nine others were injured.
“Joint operation of Police and other security agencies returned fire and repelled the bandits to the forest with gunshot injuries where they have been cordoned for search.
“Corpse of the deceased has been deposited at Primary Healthcare Center, Abaji while the jured persons are receiving medical attention at the General Hospital, Kastina-Ala.
“More patrol teams were immediately drafted to the scene to assist officers on ground. Cordon and search operation is in progress.”
Though the Police put the death toll at one, local sources claimed atleast four people were killed during the attack.
According to a source from Katsina Ala town who spoke on the condition of anonymity, armed bandits invaded the Abaji market and opened fire on the people, and in the process, killed four traders before troops arrived to repel them.
The source claimed the OPWS troops overpowered the bandits with superior firepower, following which two of the bandits were eliminated by the troops while others escaped with gunshot wounds.
One of the soldiers was said to have been among those who were injured during the encounter.
The troops, the source said, chased the bandits suspected to be Gana boys and neutralized two of them, bringing the total number of causalities to six.
“It was around 4pm to 5pm this evening when we suddenly heard gunshots in and around the Abaji market and people started running for their lives. Despite running, the bandits continued shooting and in the process, killed two persons.
“We quickly alerted OPWS troops and they responded immediately and came to repel the armed bandits. The army went after the armed gang and engaged them in a gun duel.
“They were able to kill few of them because we saw two dead bodies in addition to the two persons earlier killed in the market place”, the source said.
He commended the effort of the soldiers and appealed to the federal and state governments to deploy more security personnel to the area to address the increasing spate of insecurity in the Sankera axis.
Commander of the OPWS Major General Adeyemi Yekini could not be reached when called on phone.