Okuama: What to know about killing of soldiers in Delta community

 Okuama: What to know about killing of soldiers in Delta community

Okuama community in Delta State has found itself engulfed in flames feew hours after the tragic loss of 16 soldiers at the hands of youths.

The aftermath of this appalling incident left the community reeling as flames licked at structures, casting a pall of smoke over the area. Witnesses described scenes of chaos and despair as residents attempted to salvage what they could amidst the inferno that consumed their homes and belongings.

The fire, which broke out shortly after the deadly clash between soldiers and youths, intensified the already heightened tensions in the area.

The background

Okuoma, an Ijaw community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, now lies deserted, resembling a ghost town following the tragic killing of 22 soldiers sent there on a peacekeeping mission. The brutal incident, which claimed the lives of five officers, including a lieutenant-colonel, has instilled fear among residents, prompting many, especially young men, to flee to evade potential reprisals.

The Defence Headquarters has officially confirmed the killings, prompting the Chief of Defence Staff, General C.G. Musa, to order the immediate arrest and investigation of all suspects involved. Tensions have escalated in neighboring towns within Urhobo and Ijaw communities in Ughelli South and Bomadi local government areas, with reports of military aircraft conducting reconnaissance missions, fueling speculation of impending military operations in the region.

The soldiers fell victim to an ambush allegedly orchestrated by local youths while attempting to quell violence between Okuoma and Okoloba communities. Although no specific group has claimed responsibility for the attack, militias are suspected of being behind it. The soldiers’ mission was to secure the release of a kidnapped individual, Mr. Anthony Aboh, amidst a longstanding land dispute between the two communities.

Tragically, the soldiers were ambushed on their way back from a fruitless negotiation with Okuoma community leaders. Many lost their lives during the attack, while others, including officers, were held captive and taken towards the creek opposite the community. The lifeless body of Anthony Aboh was later discovered floating in River Forcados, alongside other victims, all found blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs, indicating the severity of the violence that ensued.

DHQ confirms killings as CDS orders investigation

Confirming the development in a statement yesterday, the acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier Gen. Tukur Gusau, said the Delta State Government had been briefed about the situation.

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

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

“The reinforcement team led by the commanding officer was also attacked, leading to the deaths of the commanding officer, two majors, one captain, and 12 soldiers.

“The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Gwabin Musa, has directed the immediate investigation and arrest of those involved in the heinous crime.

“The occurrence has been reported to the Delta State Government.

“However, the military remains focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the country.

“So far, a few arrests have been made while steps are being taken to unravel the motive behind the attack.”

Army task force recovers 14 bodies

Channels TV reported last night that 14 bodies of the victims had been recovered by a joint task force led by the General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamal Abdussalam.

The corpses were recovered from the rivers of Okuoma where they floated.

Some of them were allegedly mutilated.

Delta Senator Dafinone calls for calm, urges probe of incident

Reacting to the situation, the senator representing Delta Central, Ede Dafinone, asked those involved in the crisis to sheathe their swords.

He also advised the Federal and Delta State Governments to urgently intervene.

He described the situation as unfortunate and unnecessary.

He appealed to the army to “act discreetly in this situation, that they should not allow their emotions to take the better part of their professional judgment by toning down their operations and observe the rules of engagement while dealing with civilians at Okuoma.”

He told the residents of the affected areas to “shun any act of violence that could further escalate this crisis, which could have been avoided if both parties had allowed reason to prevail.

“The National Emergency Management Agency should also reach out and provide relief materials to the people of Okuama, many of whom have been rendered homeless.”

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