by Rachel Ogbu
Unknown gunmen are reported to have killed at least 12 policemen in Bayelsa State last Friday night leaving locals in fear of their safety.
The attack occurred the same day the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta threatened to resume hostilities in the country.
According to reports, a police officer who spoke anonymously said only 12 policemen died in the violence.
“We lost about 12 policemen on Friday night. They were ambushed by gunmen but three of them escaped. It had nothing to do with MEND. It simply coincided with MEND’s threats. We learnt that there has been internal rivalry between the ex-militant leader and his boys who accused him of cornering their allowances,” he said.
Another security source said “only two out of 15 policemen were found alive” saying that they were attacked when their boat developed a fault. “Others were killed but their remains had yet to be found,” he said.
The Director of Defence Information, Brig. Chris Olukolade, said the Defense headquater was observing developments and had issued orders to security forces to maintain the peace in the area.
“The DHQ is keenly monitoring and directing the activities of forces operating there to forestall any breach to security in that region.”
“At the moment, the five sectors of the JTF covering the nine states in the region are on high alert.”
“Maritime and air assets of the force have also been mobilised and patrols intensified both on land and water ways. The area is being effectively dominated to checkmate any assailant.”
“No form of lawlessness will be allowed to jeopardise the peace in the region. All peace loving citizens in Niger Delta are encouraged to dissociate themselves, their communities and leadership from any gang intending to disturb peace,” Olukolade said.
The Punch reports:
Our correspondent gathered that the victims were deployed by the state police command to provide security for the funeral of the late mother of an ex-militant leader, Mr. Kile Torughedi, popularly known as Young Shall Grow.
It was learnt that Torughedi who was the commander of the South Wing of MEND from 2002 till 2009 when he embraced the amnesty for repentant militants is currently serving as the Senior Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson on Marine Waterways Security.
The policemen were said to be escorting dignitaries to the wake of the deceased when gunmen attacked them.
It was learnt that 15 policemen were hired to lead the convoy of boats heading for Azuzuama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state for the wake when the gunmen suspected to be militants reportedly ambushed them.
They were said to have been thrown off balance when the bandits opened fire on them around 9pm. A senior police officer told our correspondent that 12 of the policemen who were travelling on the same boat were killed while three dived into the water to escape the attack.
Our correspondent gathered that the shooting that killed the policemen lasted for over 20 minutes forcing panic-stricken guests to suspend the journey.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Kingsley Omire described the slain policemen as soft targets. Omire who was in a pensive mood while addressing journalists at the command’s headquarters, Yenagoa, at about 9pm on Saturday said the boat conveying the policemen to the venue of the burial developed a fault midway into the journey.
Describing the incident as unfortunate, he said the attack had nothing to do with the threats issued by MEND.
According to him, intelligence reports showed that disgruntled elements within the fold of the ex-militant leader were the brains behind the dastardly act.
He confirmed that 12 police officers were missing after the incident adding that four persons including the boat driver were rescued.
He named those who were missing as two inspectors, four non-commission officers, and six constables adding that a search-and-rescue operation had been intensified by divers.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters in Abuja has put all the five sectors of the Joint Task Force operating in the nine states of the Niger Delta on the alert.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 13 people were killed in the early morning of Saturday at Mildo village in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State including two private guards at the residence of the deputy governor of the state.
Similarly seven people were said to have been killed when gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen attacked Karksshi village in Langtang South Local Government Area of Plateau State
Though details of the Adamawa attack were sketchy as at press time, the Executive Director of Stefanos Foundation, Mr. Mark Lipdo, in a text message to SUNDAY PUNCH said the 13 persons were slaughtered in their homes by persons suspected to be Islamic fundamentalists.
Matagali is the border area between Adamawa and Borno states.
In the Plateau attack, apart from seven killed, several people were also wounded.
It was also gathered that another set of gunmen attacked Zango in Wase LGA and burnt at least 10 houses before they were repelled by the villagers.
Spokesman of the Special Task Force, Captain Salisu Mustapha, confirmed the Plateau killings to SUNDAY PUNCH in Jos on Saturday.
According to him, around 2am, unknown gunmen stormed the village and killed seven people while several other sustained gunshot wounds.
He added that four of the attackers were arrested and were being interrogated. He assured the residents that the incident would be thoroughly investigated and those found culpable would be prosecuted.
The Adamawa Police Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Ibrahim, confirmed that unidentified gunmen raided Midlu Village and attacked the home of the Deputy Governor, Bala Ngalari.