Eleven Nigerian troops have been killed in clashes with gunrunners and bandits in the violence-wracked north central region, the army has said. Military spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said in a statement on Saturday that the troops, comprising soldiers and airmen, came under attack from gunmen during operations to confiscate illegal weapons from the villages of Kopa, Dagma and Gagaw in Niger State.
“While approaching and deploying to carry out their lawful duty, the troops came under simultaneous and sporadic shootings in all the three locations. They however responded as necessary in line with the rules of engagement,” the army spokesman said.
“Sadly, an officer and eight soldiers of the Nigerian Army and two airmen of the Nigeria Air Force lost their lives in the line of national duty,” he added. Usman said another soldier remained missing while two more were wounded. The gunrunners also torched four military vehicles and vandalised two others.
He said eight gunmen were killed and 57 others arrested during the army operation during which a cache of arms and ammunition were recovered. The spokesman did not specify when the fatalities occurred but the army operation in question has been ongoing for a week.
The assailants were suspected of supplying weapons to thieves and other criminals in central Nigeria, including in the capital Abuja. Central Nigeria has been wracked by clashes between ethnic Fulani herdsmen and local farmers over grazing rights, leaving hundreds dead in recent months.
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The government is proposing the creation of grazing land to prevent further clashes in a country that is struggling to end a seven-year Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.