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We Entertained Soldiers But They Tricked Us Into A Hall And Opened Fire: Military Denies Vengeance

Residents of Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State where 16 Military men lost their lives have told their own story about the genesis of the mayhem, as well as reporting reprisal killings and arsons by the Army.

However, the Nigerian Military has denied being responsible for the reprisal attack on Okuama community in Delta State and suggested that the retaliatory attacks could have been by the rival Okoloba community.

Troops attached to 181 Amphibious Batallion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta were killed while on peace mission.

Trouble started when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuoma and Okoloba communities both in the South South State.

There were reports that the Military went on a reprisal attack after the incident.

Reacting, however, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, said the Armed Forces, as a disciplined force, complied with its rules of engagement, laws of armed conflict and respect for human rights.

Buba, a Major-General, said the Military would not be led by emotions, but by the rule of law even in the face of provocation, adding that the incident would not demoralise or deter gallant troops from carrying out their constitutional duties as expected.

However, speaking with DRTV in Warri, two Okuama residents accused the Military of carrying out mass killings.

The residents, who pleaded anonymity, said the soldiers had visited their community for a peacekeeping mission and were received in the town hall.

According to the residents, it was all fine until they asked to take the community chiefs away, a request the community objected to.

One resident narrated: “On the 14th of March, we were at home when some Military officials came to our community. We welcomed them and they said that they wanted to walk around the community. They walked around the community and said that they wanted to have a peace talk at the town hall.

“They went to the town hall. The Military men were entertained and welcomed. They (the soldiers) asked for the community chairman and community leaders. They sat with them and had a talk. After that, they asked the chairman and some community leaders to follow them.

“We said that they had had the peace talk with the leaders already so they should leave, but the soldiers insisted they had to take them away. The people said no. From there, the army turned the whole story into violence. Right there, in the community town hall, the soldiers started shooting our people there. Killed many of the young people there. People started running; some were killed instantly. Nobody expected any shooting.

“The Army went and came back with more reinforcement. About twenty more people were killed immediately.”

Another source said: “The Army – they just changed all of a sudden and opened fire on us. Women and children died. We cannot find some of our children and our parents.

“They (the soldiers) killed over 20 of our fellow residents. Some of our buildings were razed. Many residents have fled and there are even dead bodies in the bush where we have been hiding. We want the government to come to our rescue.”

Suspected armed men of Okuama community last Thursday ambushed and murdered the Commanding Officer of 181 Army Amphibious Battalion, two Majors, one Captain and 12 soldiers.

The Military initially said a total of 16 soldiers were killed but on Monday, it posted the names and photos of 17 casualties.

 

While the Military confirmed the killing of the soldiers on Saturday, on Sunday morning, the Okuama community was attacked and many houses there were burnt.

That Sunday morning attack the Military has now denied.

The Director of Defence Media Operations, Major-General Edward Buba, in a statement on Monday, said the community was already deserted even before troops arrived there.

Buba advised those peddling the news of reprisal attacks on the community by soldiers to desist from further “dishonouring the fallen heroes.”

He said: “Overall, there is no doubt, that this (killing of the soldiers) is an extremely sad development and untoward activity by members of the Okuama community against troops that were there to protect them.

“We urge the public to resist the temptation of allowing any videos of the incident of the killed personnel from going viral..

“It would be a dishonour to the fallen heroes to allow such ugly videos of their demise go viral.

“Above all, as the Military mourns, it remains ever determined to ensure safety and security of citizens across the country.”

 

Buba reminded Nigerians that the Armed Forces consist of citizens from every nook and cranny of the nation who had taken oath of allegiance to put themselves in harm’s way to defend the country.

He said: “The ugly incident in Okuama Community in Delta is indicative of the dangers our gallant troops experience in order to secure our nation.

“The Military assures that there would be measured responses and injurious consequences for the perpetrators of these dastardly act.

“Nevertheless, the Armed Forces being a disciplined force that complies with rules of engagement, laws of armed conflict and the respect for human rights would be tempered by these provisions.

“We would not be led by emotions, but by the rule of law.”

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