No one could ascertain the number of people already killed by the military. While some residents alleged that up to 20 residents were killed, the Mbator community in Shangev-Tiev of the LGA of Benue State put the casualty figure at 70. Yet the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) denied the allegations on Friday dating its men had nothing to do with any reprisal
Governor Samuel Ortom said information at his disposal indicated that eight people died.
He urged caution and asked Konshisha community leaders to prevail on those who took away military weapons to return them without further delay.
The Mbator community said the 70 were killed during an invasion of the area by troops during alleged reprisals over the killing of 11 soldiers.
On the contrary, it said, soldiers killed 10 armed bandits who engaged them in a fight.
It challenged those bandying casualty figures other than the one provided by the military authorities to back up such claims with evidence.
The Nigerian Army confirmed late Thursday that 10 of its soldiers and an officer were found dead after they went missing in the area.
The bodies of the troops were found at Konshisha Local Government Area of the state by a search team drawn from Operation Whirl Stroke.
The Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima, said the attack on the troops was unprovoked.
Reports from Shangev Tiev also said several houses were set ablaze.
One of the affected buildings is that of the traditional ruler of Shangev Tiev, Chief Unaha Kõkõ.
A community leader in the area, Chief Moses Ugba, said up to 15 people were killed.
Trouble started on Monday when soldiers of Operation Whirl Wind deployed to intervene in a bloody land dispute between Bonta village of Mbator and Okpute-Ainu in Oju LGA were ambushed by a local militia.
Ten soldiers and an army officer were killed in the ambush while their rifles were taken away.
The land dispute is said to have defied all solutions.
A youth leader in Shangev Tiev, Comrade Peter Adasu, speaking on the phone, queried the motive of the military in the communal dispute.
Representatives of a group known as Shangev-Tiev Assembly (STA) claimed at a press conference yesterday in Makurdi that 15 neighbouring communities have been destroyed by the military since the aerial and ground raid against the villagers began earlier in the week.
Spokesman for the group, Tyoh Jude, accused soldiers of razing and demolishing farms, schools, hospitals and houses at Bonta, Tse-Jembe, Tse-Anyom, Gbinde, Mbaakpur, Aku, Agidi, Gungul, Adoka, Guleya, Awajir, Shiliki, Achoho and Ullam in Gwer Local Government Area, and “are still planning to do same to other neighbouring towns within Konshisha LGA.”
He added: “Our unarmed people are being killed intentionally in large numbers by armed personnel of the Nigerian Army. Presently, over 70 persons are reported dead and more than 100 people are missing, mostly women, children and the elderly, and hundreds of thousands displaced with its attendant humanitarian consequences.”
He asked the Federal Governments to prevail on the military to stop the alleged killings with immediate effect.
He also pleaded with the Benue State Government to amicably demarcate the disputed land.
He called for the setting up of a panel of enquiry to “investigate the remote and immediate causes of the crises and the roles of the military.”
Anyone found wanting should be punished in accordance with the laws of the land and compensations paid to all victims in Shangev Tiev, he said.