by Isi Esene
The body of ten policemen killed in an ambush on Saturday night in Bayelsa state have been recovered.
The bodies were recovered yesterday by the police who brought them to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa and refused access to the facility even to journalists milling around the area.
According to Punch Newspaper reports:
Twelve policemen on escort duty were murdered in the attack along the Azuzama waterways of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state which the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta had already claimed responsibility for.
The recovered bodies were brought to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, on Tuesday evening by policemen who barricaded the mortuary area of the hospital. The policemen kept journalists at bay and seized cameras of newsmen who attempted capturing the scene.
Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Kingsley Omire, was not at the scene to receive the bodies and there were speculations that the bodies had been dismembered with some of them burnt.
A statement by Governor Seriake Dickson said a combined team of security operatives recovered the 10 bodies along the creeks.
The statement, which was signed by Dickson’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, also quoted Omire as saying that it took the combined efforts of men of the Joint Security Task Force to ensure the recovery of the corpses.
But some of the recovered bodies were reportedly burnt beyond recognition and mutilated by their killers.
The victims were also reportedly stripped of their uniforms and rifles after the attack.
After waiting for a long time at the Governmen Jetty in Yenagoa, some of the bereaved families were denied access to the bodies when they were finally brought ashore at 6:45pm.
Our correspondent observed that the jetty was protected by armed policemen, including the operatives of the state security outfit, codenamed Operation Door Akpo.
The owner of one of the boats used by the attacked policemen said the bodies were not recovered from the river but at a point in the creek where the bodies have been severely mutilated.
The Punch reports continues thus:
He said the bodies were not recovered from the river by divers but at a point in the creek where the gunmen mutilated them.
“That was why it took a long time to see their bodies,” he said.
He also insisted that the uniforms and rifles of the victims were taken away by the bandits.
He countered the statement of the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kingsley Omire, that the victims were attacked after their boat developed a fault.
Omire had said that his men succumbed to attack when the boat in which they were travelling became faulty.
But the source who pleaded anonymity said the boat was in motion when the bandits launched the attack.
“The boat was moving at a slow pace because of the capacity of its engine when their occupants were attacked,” he said.
Dickson said on Tuesday that the recovery of the bodies was contrary to media reports that the killers went away with the bodies of the dead policemen.
He also debunked the claim by MEND that it was responsible for the attack.
“The recent development has put paid to the fact that the attack was carried out by a group of disgruntled ex-militants who have issues to settle among themselves, but have clearly overstepped their bounds by their action”, he said.
Restating his administration’s stance on zero tolerance for criminality, the governor assured the bereaved families and the entire people of the state that the security operatives would arrest the perpetrators.
He also told the families of the 12 policemen killed in the attack that their deaths would not be in vain as the government “is determined more than ever before to bring the perpetrators to book.”
MEND on Sunday claimed that its fighters killed the 12 policemen whose boat was ambushed in Azuzama on Saturday and that their deaths were to teach the security forces a lesson for scorning its warning.
The militant group had last week announced that it would resume attacks in the oil rich Niger Delta by Friday to avenge alleged collaboration between the Federal Government and South Africa to jail its former leader, Henry Okah.
Security agencies had dismissed the threat and said they were ready for MEND which tagged its promised resurgence of attacks, “Hurricane Exodus.”