Thirteen residents of Ukpogo-Edikwu, a community in Apa Local Government Area of Benue, were killed in the wee hours of Monday by unidentified gunmen over what is suspected to be an ongoing tussle for a chieftaincy position.
HumAngle gathered that among the victims were three siblings who were shot dead in the presence of their mother. One of the corpses was then set on fire. The mother has since gone missing, some of the residents said.
The attack took place a few hours before sunrise and last about thirty minutes. Houses in the community were burnt by the gunmen, who reportedly numbered up to 20.
The conflict around the traditional title of Alegwu of Edikwu started in 2014 but there was relative calm in the community since May when the state deputy governor, Benson Abounu, presided over a meeting where the stakeholders agreed to sheathe their swords.
Before then, there had been attacks and reprisals from parties loyal to the two factions.
“This attack took everyone by surprise because of the level of destruction and the number of persons killed on the spot,” said Onyejowu Sunday Ebi, an uncle of the deceased siblings.
“We are still looking for my mother’s immediate younger sister since yesterday. They killed three of her children and burnt her daughter immediately with her eye witnessing such ordeal, someone who is already heading to her 80s.”
He added that he feared there could be counter-attacks. Punch Newspaper, however, reported on Monday that security personnel under Operation Whirl Stroke, a joint military operation, have been drafted to the area to prevent reprisals and further loss of lives.
Matthew Sule Ebi, another relative of the victims, noted that the presence of soldiers has calmed the tension to an extent and thanked the government for acting swiftly. He said residents were just coming out of hiding and people were afraid to visit.
He urged the state government to resolve the chieftaincy tussle for good by not taking sides with either party.
“Some people are loyal to one side and another set of people are loyal to another side and the government is watching, though they are trying. But we cannot definitely tell when it will end. Left to us, we would have accepted if the government would come in and cancel or dismiss the two contestants and let us have a very fresh beginning,” he recommended.
“A similar incident happened in May; people were killed and buried. And till now, nobody knows the whereabouts of some of the graves. There are at least two people whose corpses have not been found after that incident.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Catherine Anene, confirmed the incident in a statement, adding that a team of police officers were deployed to the scene “where thirteen (13) corpses were recovered”.
She said an investigation was ongoing to confirm the motive behind the killings and ensure the armed men are apprehended.
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