From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPSW) 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 leading to the death of 2 bandits, with nine others injured.
The troops also recovered one AK47 riffle and several ammunition during the encounter with the armed bandits in the area.
Our correspondent gathered from the area that the troops responded to a distress call that suspected armed bandits had gone to launch an attack on Abaji market in the Shitile community killing one villager.
It was further gathered that the troops immediately mobilised to the Market to repel the bandits leading to a heavy shootout between them and the bandits .
According to a source from Katsina Ala town who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the OPWS troops overpowered the bandits by superior firepower, following which two of the bandits were eliminated by the troops while others escaped with gunshot wounds.
However one of the soldiers was said to have been among those who were injured during the encounter.
The source however stated that the armed bandits had earlier invaded the Abaji market and opened fire on the people, and in the process, killed one traders before troops arrived to repel them.
The troops were said to have pursued after the armed bandits suspected to be Gana boys and neutralized two of them bringing the total number of causalities to three.
“It was around 5pm and 6pm this evening when we suddenly heard gunshots in and around the Abaji market and people started running for dear live. Despite running, the bandits continued shooting and in the process, killed one person.
“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, killing some of them in the process.
“They (OPWS) were able to kill two of them because we saw two dead bodies in addition to the one person that was earlier killed in the market place, bringing the number of death to three”, the source said.
The Katsina-Ala Council boss, Alfred Atera also confirmed that one person was killed and others injured in the twilight attack.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Anene confirmed the report in a statement.
“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,” Anene said.
Efforts to get the force commander of OPWS, Major General Adeyemi Yekini proved abortive as his cell phone number could not be reached and text messages sent to his phone could not be delivered as at the time of filing this report.