Residents in Benue State on Sunday panicked after military aircraft were sighted hovering over some areas of the state.
Our correspondent, who also observed as one of the aircraft fly around Makurdi metropolis about 7 am, reports that the development caused fear among the people with some of them claiming that the military was hunting for suspected cultists and armed herders.
A respondent, who declined to disclose his name, said he saw two military helicopters which hovered severally around his vicinity in the Achussa suburb of Makurdi metropolis.
“The aircraft flew so low in our surrounding and then always headed towards Wadata, NASME, Modern market and Iniongun area.
“We have heard some sounds as heavy as that of an explosion of weapons,” he said.
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Another resident, who also preferred anonymity, said there were deafening sounds when the aircrafts hovered around rural communities in Ukum area, suggesting that the soldiers may have carried out operations in some criminals hideouts in the local government.
But a military source told newsmen in Makurdi that the observations were part of the commencement of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS)’s 7-day clearing operation in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States.
The source, who refused to be named, intimated that the operation was sequel to the incessant armed bandits’ operation in some communities across Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States which had resulted in the death of some villagers.
The clearance operations, as gathered, also became necessary following a recent attack on some soldiers on duty behind NASME Barracks in Makurdi by some suspected armed herders, informing the reason why the aircraft were seen hovering some islands behind NASME Barracks in Makurdi and Gbajimba in Guma LGA of Benue where alleged armed invaders have severely dealt with villagers.
The military source also said that the clearing operation covered the Sankera axis of Logo, Ukum and Katsina-Ala LGAs all through to Yoyo River and Kwente in Kwande LGA of Benue where the armed militia, led by one Chekere also known as Azonto terrorised locals.
However, he urged people to remain calm and go about their legitimate business without fear as the operation targets specific locations and meant to bring about peace in all communities of the three states to enable farmers go to their farms and return in peace.