Gunmen suspected to be armed herders have claimed two lives in the communities of Ikpele and Okpokpolo in the Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
A source from the community, known as Oche, revealed to Punch on Wednesday that the attack occurred on Tuesday night, January 23, 2024. Many residents have fled the communities, and others are currently missing.
Oche also mentioned that the attackers set several houses ablaze. “They (gunmen) attacked Ikpele and Okpokpolo and other places on Tuesday night throughout, and we are yet to get the exact number of persons killed,” Oche said. “There was a serious battle until around 10 pm. Two bodies have so far been recovered. Many houses were burnt. In fact, within the attacked community yesterday in the night, at least 17 burnt houses were counted.”
He added that residents of the affected communities had deserted their homes.
Confirming the attack, a former Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mike Inalegwu, who hails from the local government, said tension was high in the council area.
“The truth is that yesterday (Tuesday) the armed herdsmen attacked Okpokpolo village and killed two persons while the villagers were thinking of their speculative attack on the Ogbai community. Tension is high, and the seven villages on the Kogi border of the local government are deserted. This is authoritative,” he said.
The Special Adviser to Governor Hyacinth Alia on Security and Internal Affairs, Joseph Har, also confirmed the attack. However, he mentioned that he was not told that people were killed.
The Tuesday attack occurred barely a week after suspected armed herders launched an attack on some communities in the council, resulting in the death of three soldiers and two others.
The Force Commander of the Operation Whirl Stroke, Maj. Gen. Sunday Igbinowanhia, while confirming the attack, said the two soldiers and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were killed while preventing the attack in Okokolo.
“The success achieved was, however, at a huge cost, with three of the troops paying the supreme sacrifice to prevent the killing of the inhabitants of Okokolo and the intended sacking of the community,” he stated.