The armed men burnt down several houses and destroyed properties worth millions.
The armed men burnt down several houses and destroyed properties worth millions during the raid that had residents running for their lives. An elderly citizen was killed in the fire that engulfed one of the buildings.
Chairman of the LGA, Francis Ayagah, told Premium Times that the attack by the soldiers was a reprisal over the killing of one of their colleagues, identified as Private Danlami Gambo, near the community on Wednesday, April 18.
He said, "A soldier was killed by hoodlums yesterday, but I met with the brigade commander around 4:30 a.m. today. He gave me a list of suspects and we arrested five of them overnight. It was while we trying to take them to the brigade that soldiers stormed the town and started burning houses.
"A whole part of the town has been completely burnt down and we're appealing for help and understanding from the soldiers."
Ayagah reported that most of the homes burnt by the angry soldiers belonged to innocent people and not the suspected killers of the soldier.
According to an earlier statement by the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Major Olabisi Ayeni, the slain soldier had been killed and buried in a shallow grave by some youths in Naka.
The statement read, "On 18 April 2018, at about 3:30 pm, troops of 707 Sf Brigade deployed at Naka in Gwer West LGA of Benue State observed the absence of PTE Danlami Gambo from his duty post. The soldier’s rifle was however found at the location.
"It was gathered that the soldier was last seen receiving a phone call but left in search of network and did not return. Troops immediately conducted patrols to search for the soldier during the search, at about 6.10 pm, our troops observed blood stains along a footpath leading to a newly dug grave.
"They immediately dug out the grave and the dead body of the missing soldier was found butchered. The corpse was later exhumed and deposited at the Nigerian Air Force mortuary, Makurdi."
He further disclosed that preliminary investigations showed that some locals were involved in the killing which led to the dispatch of a team of troops that effected the arrest of some suspects.
The circumstances that led to the soldier's death remain unclear, but two different accounts indicate that he was alone when he was seized by a local mob on Wednesday.
According to Premium Times, one account reported that he was found roaming on a farmland near Naka when hoodlums seized him on suspicion of being an criminal. Benue has been plagued by criminal activities largely credited to herdsmen which has resulted in the death of hundreds in 2018 alone.
Prior to Private Gambo's capture by the mob, there had been reports that some killers were sighted in military fatigues in the state over the past week. This could have led to his unfortunate lynching by the mob.
Another account by residents noted that Private Gambo had been in the community in military uniform buying bread worth over N7,000 which raised suspicion and led to residents asking him for proper identification.
According to a report by Channels Television, he was believed to be a herdsman who was pretending to be a member of the military. When he failed to prove he was a soldier, the mob reportedly marched him down to a military camp near Naka.
However, soldiers in the camp could not definitively identify him as one of their own and were allowed to leave the camp with him before he was reportedly killed.
"When the soldiers could not identify him, the boys took him away and the next thing we heard was that he was killed," a resident said.