There was a new twist to the killings in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State on Friday as some locals said farmers in Akaanya, Tse Gbum, Kpete and Ulam communities in the local government recovered 26 more bodies.
They said the victims were killed by people in military uniform, who were allegedly looking for their missing colleagues. About 15 persons were also reported killed on Wednesday.
The locals who spoke to our correspondent claimed that death toll in the affected communities had risen to 67.
One of the locals, who did not want his name in print, said, “The record we have is that 41 persons were killed on Thursday, but farmers in some affected communities on Friday afternoon discovered 26 bodies, bringing the total to 67.
Meanwhile, a source close to the chairman of Ukum Local Government Area, who pleaded anonymity, said the 26 corpses were only those recovered on Friday morning.
The source said, “As it is now, we have recovered 26 dead bodies. Yesterday (Thursday), about 41 persons were killed in Jande Ikura, a community between Benue and Taraba states.
“We learnt that during the attack, three bodies recovered were those of men dressed in military uniform. So, yesterday (Thursday) between 10 am and 11 am, the same suspected gunmen in military uniform crossed over to some communities in Benue and started shooting, killing people. They claimed that they were looking for their fellow soldiers who had gone missing.
“They entered Akaanya Tse Gbum and Kpete, which is a riverine area and Ulam, all in Benue, State and killed 26 persons there. Many people are still missing. These people came from Kente area in Taraba State to launch the attack.”
The source noted that the attackers retreated to their base in Kente after the operation.
Speaking to journalists shortly after a security council meeting, the Acting Governor of Benue State, Mr. Benson Abounu, said he had yet to be briefed on the casualty rate in Ukum, and that he was only aware of the two persons killed in Makurdi metropolis by the suspected herdsmen.
“We have had a security council meeting but nobody mentioned anything like that to me,” he added.
When asked whether he had received a briefing from Ukum Local Government chairman, the acting governor said, “No, the chairman has yet to brief me. At the meeting, we only emphasised the need for security agencies in the state to be proactive rather than being reactive.
He added, “What they (security men) have been doing is they only go to repel attacks and return instead of mounting checkpoints at the entrance of flashpoints. With the previous strategy, sometimes before the security men could get to where the attacks were taking place, the damage was already done.
“So, we have asked them to change strategy and guard areas being attacked to forestall further occurrence.”