• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Delta unrest: Army denies retaliation after soldier killings, arrests 20

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The Nigerian Army has refuted claims of reprisal attacks on the Okuama community in Delta State, following the killing of 17 soldiers last Thursday. The military, however, confirmed the arrest of approximately 20 suspects believed to be involved in the attack.

This comes amidst accusations from a community leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleging mass arrests and killings by soldiers. He expressed concern that the military’s actions could escalate the situation, mirroring the tragic events of Odi in 1999.

The community leader claimed that soldiers were targeting innocent civilians instead of focusing on apprehending the perpetrators. He emphasized the dangers of indiscriminate violence, stating, “If it involves targeted arrests, nobody will complain about it, but mass killings are unacceptable. Soldiers entering a community and opening fire is a terrible act.”

Meanwhile, reports surfaced on Monday suggesting that deployed soldiers in Okuama burned houses as residents fled the area.

Deadly clash and exodus

The incident unfolded on Thursday when a communal land dispute in Bomadi and Okuama communities turned violent. Irate youths reportedly ambushed and killed at least 17 soldiers from the 181 Amphibious Battalion who were deployed to mediate the conflict.

News of the soldiers’ deaths sparked fear and a mass exodus from Okuama and neighboring Okolaba in Bomadi Local Government Area. Residents fled as soldiers took control, with unverified reports claiming soldiers set houses ablaze in retaliation.

Military response and investigation

The Defence Headquarters released the names of the slain soldiers on Monday. They affirmed their commitment to apprehending the culprits, emphasizing that “propaganda” wouldn’t hinder the investigation. The military vowed to pursue justice but stressed adherence to the rules of engagement and respect for human rights.

The situation in Okuama remains tense. As investigations continue, ensuring a measured and lawful response from the military will be crucial in preventing further escalation and restoring normalcy to the affected communities.