The defence headquarters (DHQ) says its troops did not kill residents of Konshisha in Benue state.
The military had said 11 of its men were killed following an attack by suspected gunmen in the area.
There have been unconfirmed reports that troops were reinforced to the area for a “revenge operation”.
But in a statement on Friday, Onyema Nwachukwu, DHQ spokesperson, said the reinforcement team went after suspected bandits who were occupying houses deserted by the villagers.
He said such houses were burnt by the troops, adding that using villagers’ houses for hideouts was one of the tactics of the bandits to draw negative comments on the military.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to put it on record that apart from these initial 10 bandits, there are no other civilian casualties recorded in any part of Konshisha till date,” the statement reads.
“We therefore challenge anybody from Konshisha to present to the public the 200, 70 or 30 dead bodies of innocent persons, male, female or children killed by troops in Konshisha. There was never a massacre as being touted by some mischief makers.
“The remnants of the armed bandits that escaped from Bonta withdrew into neighbouring villages where they kept on attacking troops as they continued with the search operation through Bonta into other parts of Konshisha.
“Knowing the implications of killing troops in cold blood, most of the villagers fled their homes which were then occupied by armed bandits who kept firing at troops from the settlements as they advanced into Konshisha.
“Troops repelled the attacks and destroyed the houses and other buildings which the criminals used as hideout for the attacks.
“The use of abandoned settlements by armed bandits to attack troops is popular with insurgents. The aim is to draw military fire into the dwellings and then turn round to blame soldiers for the destruction. This is common guerilla tactics armed bandits designed to whip up public sentiment against security forces and this is what played out in Konshisha.
“This accounts for some of the burnt houses being reported in the press.”
He said the bandits should be blamed for the destruction, since they used the settlements as hideouts.
According to him, it will be wrong to blame soldiers who are in Konshisha on legitimate duties, when some of them were murdered in cold blood.
Nwachukwu said some of the recent photos of razed buildings were of those burnt during earlier communal clashes between Konshisha and Oju, “all of which the sponsors of the mayhem are now blaming on the military”.