From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi and Molly Kilete, Abuja
Accusations, counter-accusations and denials have continued to trail Army opration in Benue State. While a group Shangev-Tiev Assembly (STA), from Benue State, has condemned the military invasion of parts of Konshisha Local Government Area of the state in which many lives were allegedly been lost and several property destroyed, the Defence Headquarters is denying that.
Addressing newsmen in Makurdi yesterday, the group, led by Elder Tyoh Jude, lamented that the military invasion had rendered many of their kit-and-kin homeless, while many innocent people have also been killed by the military.
The group alleged that over 70 persons including women children and the aged were reported dead and more than 100 persons missing so far since an invasion by the military in the area began a few days ago. It listed communities affected as Bonta, Tse-Jembe, Tse-Anyom, Gbinde, Mbaakpur, Aku, Agidi, Gungul, Adoka, Guleya, Awajir, Shiliki, Achoho all in Konshisha LGA, as well as Ullam in Gwer LGA. It accused the Army of deploying fighter helicopters that operate on daily basis and scores of armoured vehicles to continually shell and kill and destroy lives and property in the affected communities. The group lamented that several houses including that of the oldest traditional ruler in the area were burnt down by the military, adding that many people have also died from trauma occasioned by the violent invasion. But in a statement issued by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), while denying the allegation, accused bandits in Konshisha Local Government Area of killing soldiers on legitimate duties to keep the peace among warring communities in the area. It said an officer and ten soldiers killed by the bandits were burnt beyond recognition and their service weapons carted away. The DHQ, said the deceased officer and soldiers were actually on their way to reinforce their colleagues when they were attacked by armed bandits at Bonta in Konshisha on April 5, 2021.
Making this known in a statement issued in Abuja, the Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu assured that the military would work with the Benue State government to fish out perpetrators of the dastardly act and bring them to book. It denied reports of massive killing and destruction of houses and other property by the military and challenges accusers to present to the public dead bodies of the so-called innocent persons killed by troops in Konshisha. “There was never a massacre as being touted by some mischief-makers,” it said.