The Nigerian Army has denied that it invaded six Agatu communities in Benue State, saying that it had only embarked on an operation to recoverthe body of a soldier who was killed in the area.
Brigade Commander 707 Special Forces, Clement Apeere made this known during a press conference on Wednesday at the army temporary office at Hoodko quarters, Makurdi.
There had been reports that soldiers invaded six Agatu villages, sacking the villagers and killing one pregnant woman in the process, apparently in retaliation for a soldier who was reportedly killed last weekend by some bandits in the community.
“This is genocide on our people, as I’m talking to you now, six villages have been sacked, children and women have moved out of the affected villages, while many people have been arrested by the invading soldiers,”one villager who pleaded anonymity told journalists via the phone.
The affected villages include Olegadakolo, Ikpele, Otugologwu, Iwali, Okpanchenyi and Egba.
However, the Army commander told newsmen on Wednesday that troops of 72 Special Force Battalion were deployed to the area to recover the body of the slain soldier, as well as his arms and ammunition stolen by the militant.
“On receiving the information, the troops of special forces battalion moved to Oweto to recover the body of the killed soldier, the troops conducted cordon and search operations to apprehend youth militias that committed the act and recover the soldier’s rifle and ammunition they carried away,” Apeere said.
“We got intelligence where the hoodlums were, we swooped on the areas but before we got there some of them have escaped but could not escape with the arms and ammunition.”
He added that “the operation we conducted in the area was carried out in a professional way”, saying that “two AK 47 rifles, two SLR rifles, two G3 rifles, one fabricated pistol, three locally made pistols, two short barrel local revolver guns and 14 dane guns as well as police and military kits” were recovered from the hoodlums.
The army general pledged that the security of lives and property of every law abiding citizens in Agatu will continue to be top priority for the military.