The Nigerian Army Force Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Mutiu Yekini, Friday said troops deployed to four troubled states of the federation including Benue State are combat ready to put an end to incessant killings.
Yekini said the states; Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara must be liberated from the grips of criminal elements who are disguised in whatever names and killing innocent citizens.
“We are here to put an end to incessant killing and we have no agenda beyond that. Any armed man or armed group that is here to cause evil is an enemy. Our goal on this special mission is to pursue, track, find and destroy the enemies,” he said.
The Force Commander who was responding to questions from journalists in Makurdi during a press briefing by the Acting Director Defence Information, Defence Headquarters, Abuja, Brig-Gen John Agim, on the successes of Operation Whirl Stroke launched on May 8, this year disclosed that enough resource were at the operation’s disposal to restore normalcy to troubled areas.
He noted that it was the first time in the history of the country that a special force of the entire armed forces and other security agencies were put together to conduct an operation to address a specific challenge.
Yekini further explained the operation had already established patrol in specific areas of concerned states with troops of air assault to engage the enemy, maritime troops to patrol River Benue waterways and the ground troops to ensure that the enemies are bombarded wherever they are identified.
He added that due to the sensitive nature of the operation which is certainly different from the recent exercise Ayem A’kpatuma, the issue of timeframe would only be determined by the security situation across the four states.
“It depends on how quick we are able to restore law and order in the affected states. In this operation, we will find, fix and we will strike them wherever they may be. We will bombard them once we have evidence that the camps are possible hideouts for criminal elements.
“I have enough men, enough resources to fish out the criminals and destroy them. You understand that some of these herdsmen shield themselves with their cattle. We will kill both the cattle and the herdsmen who use them as shield to attack,” Yekini stressed.
He however cautioned that the military is not an agent of the state to implement the grazing law as being insinuated in some quarters, noting, “We are here to maintain law and order. It is not our job to enforce the law.”
Earlier, the Defence spokesman, Brig-Gen Agim, intimated that the operation started in earnest on May 8 and deployed troops in all the flash points in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states, pointing out that it would subsequently be deployed in Zamfara state where aerial recognisance is being carried out on daily basis as well as other states under the operation.
Agim confirmed that after deployment of troops to the affected villages in Ayllamo and Uzer villages in Logo LGA of Benue State, there had been a gradual return of villagers to their villages due to presence of security agencies as available information indicated that about 400 residents of Ayilamo Village and about 200 residents of Uzer village have returned; out of about 1,500 and 1,000 residents, respectively who fled the villages in January, this year.