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Delta Communal Clash Claims 16 Military Personnel

  • Defence Chief Orders Investigation

  • Residents Flee

 

By Idowu Isamotu (Abuja) & Kelvin Meluwa (Asaba)

 

The Defence headquarters has confirmed the killing of 16 military personnel on Thursday while responding to a distress call during a communal crisis between Okuoma and Okoloba communities in Delta State.

The acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Tukur Gusau, in a statement yesterday, said the slain troops were attached to 181 Amphibious Batallion at Bomadi Local Government Area of the state.

He said those gunned down were the Commanding Officer, two majors, one captain and 12 soldiers.

“The troops of 181 Amphibious Batallion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, while on peace mission to Okuoma community, were surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, 14th March, 2024.

“The unfortunate incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuoma and Okoloba communities both in Delta State.

“The reinforcement team, led by the Commanding Officer, was also attacked, leading to the death of the Commanding Officer, two majors, one captain and 12 soldiers,” Gusau stated.

He said the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa, had directed immediate investigation and arrest of those involved in the “heinous crime.”

He said a few arrests had so far been made; while steps were in place to unravel the motive behind the attack.

Gusau said the incident had been reported to the Delta State government.

He said the military remained focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the country.

Residents flee

Residents of Okuama were said to have been fleeing their community for fear of being attacked by the military over the killing of the military personnel.

One of them, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said: “I can’t stay here for the military to come and kill me. I am leaving. Okwuama community of Ewu Kingdom has been attacked to zero; people were killed too and more are still going to die with the news of the killing of the soldiers”.

Meanwhile, sources, who narrated the incident to Daily Trust on Sunday, said the number of the military personnel killed was up to 22, aside two civilians who were also killed in the incident.

“Trouble started in the early hours of Thursday, March 14, 2024 when two speedboats belonging to Okuama indigenes were attacked by the hoodlums with sophisticated weapons. The boys escaped for their lives.

“Not satisfied, the gunmen besieged and laid ambush on the community later in the afternoon before opening fire on members of the community.

“Two indigenes of Okuama community died in the process. Four others sustained varying degrees of injuries and were rushed to an undisclosed hospital for medical treatment.

“Miffed by the ugly development, Okuama repelled the suspected Okoloba indigenes in military camouflage, leaving an unspecified number dead on the spot,” a source said.

Another source said: “We understand that there were issues between the community indigenes and the military, but destroying the entire community is not the way to go.”

He called on Governor Sheriff Oborevwori to “arrest this crisis immediately”, stressing that: “painfully, innocent women and children are being killed.”

A source from the military team said the Bomadi Division of the Joint Task Force, had, on Wednesday, embarked on a rescue mission to Okuama to free one Anthony Aboh, an indigene of neighbouring Okoloba, who was kidnapped over a lingering land dispute between both communities.

He said the soldiers and their commander were ambushed on their way back to the waterfront after a deadlocked discussion at the Okuama community hall over the kidnapped victim.

“We were coming back to our boats after the unfruitful discussion to release the kidnapped victim of Okoloba community. Suddenly, there were rains of bullets coming from all directions and some of us managed to escape.

“Many people were killed during the ambush, including a former honourable member from Okoloba community who reported the matter to the JTF. But the commander and other officers were held hostage and taken to an unknown destination towards the creek opposite the community”, the source said.

He said 22 military men were later found dead at Okuama community, among whom were one Lt Colonel, two majors, one captain and eighteen soldiers.

A source from Okoloba community also disclosed that Mr. Aboh’s body was also “found floating on River Forcados, near Ayakoromo.”

The state Commissioner for Information, Ifeanyi Osuoza, had, penultimate Thursday, reacted to the hint that some suspected Okoloba indigenes were mobilising from the Warri axis with gunboats for an attack on Okuama.

He had told reporters that the issue was discussed at a security council meeting and that the state government was doing everything to restore peace.

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