The Nigerian military says it is not planning any reprisal attack on Zaki Biam community of Benue State following the killing of a soldier and policeman in the area on Tuesday.
A statement issued in Abuja by the Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade, obtained by the Street Journal on Thursday, allayed the fears of residents who had fled the area.
It said the rumour of a planned reprisal attack by the military was untrue and urged the fleeing residents to return home.
According to Kolade, an armed gang identified as Gana, which has been operating on the Zaki-biam/Katsina Ala road, had attacked the troops on patrol, while on their way to respond to a distress call.
The statement further said that no civilian will be unduly harassed as the military authorities in the locality were making every effort to track down the culprits.
It, therefore, urged the people to return to their homes and carry on with their normal activities, assuring them that the troops were only there to protect them.
It would be recalled that Nigerian troops on a reprisal mission allegedly invaded the Zaki-Biam community on October 22, 2001 and killed no fewer than 100 residents.
This was said to be sequel to an attack by the Militia of the Tiv ethnic group, believed to have been responsible for the abduction and murder of 19 soldiers, whose mutilated bodies were found in the village of Zaki-Biam on October 12.
The soldiers had been deployed to the area to restore law and order following clashes between the Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups in Nigeria’s volatile North-Central region.