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Nigeria’s Defence Chief Declares Manhunt for Killers of Lt Col, Two Majors, Captain, 12 Soldiers in Delta

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, on Saturday day ordered the arrest and investigation of the killers of a commanding officer, two majors, one captain, and 12 soldiers, deployed to quell a communal crisis in Okuoma community in Ughelli South Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State.
Delta State Governor, Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, has also condemned, in very strong terms, the unprovoked killing of officers and soldiers attached to 63 Brigade at Okuama community.

This is just as the senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Ede Dafinone; human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN); Alumni Association of the National Institute (AANI); and the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), have called for an investigation into the incident.
While the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed that 16 officers and men were killed, community sources put the death toll at 22.
It was gathered that the military personnel were surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

Confirming the incident in a terse statement issued yesterday, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig Gen Tukur Gusau, said the CDS, General Musa, has ordered the arrest and investigation of all those involved in the killing.
He said the incident was reported to the Delta State government.
The statement titled: ‘Situation Report on the Attack and Killing of Military Personnel on Peace Mission By Okuoma Community’, said the defence chief ordered the immediate arrest and investigation of all those involved.

“The troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State while on a peace mission to Okuoma community in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State were surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, 14 March 2024.
“The unfortunate incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuoma and Okoloba communities both in Delta State,” it said.
“The reinforcement team led by the commanding officer was also attacked, leading to the death of the commanding officer, two majors, one captain, and 12 soldiers.

“The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher 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,” it said.
The statement affirmed, however, that the military remained 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 in place to unravel the motive behind the attack,” it said.
THISDAY gathered that the events leading to the killings began on Wednesday when the Bomadi Division of the Joint Task Force (JTF) led by a major embarked on a rescue mission to the Okuoma community to free a kidnapped youth said to be an indigene of the neighbouring Okoloba community in Bomadi LGA, who was abducted over the lingering land dispute between the two communities.

However, on the following day, another team of military personnel led by the commanding officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, went to the community to rescue the youth held hostage by the armed group but were all killed.
According to one of the survivors of the attack, a civilian who was in the military team, as well as the commander and his men were taken unaware while on their way back to the waterfront after a deadlocked roundtable discussion in the Okuoma community hall over the fate of the kidnapped youth.
“We were coming back to our boats after the unfruitful discussion to release the kidnapped victim from the Okoloba community. Suddenly, there were rains of bullets coming from all directions and some of us managed to escape. Many people were killed during the ambush, including a former lawmaker from the Okoloba community, who reported the matter to the JTF.

“But the commander and other officers were held hostage and taken to an unknown destination towards the creek opposite the community”, he explained.
It was learnt that 22 military officers and men, including the Lieutenant Colonel, two majors, one captain, and 18 soldiers were later confirmed dead.
Meanwhile, the lifeless body of the kidnapped youth has been recovered from the River Forcados, near the Ayakoromor community.
“Like other victims, he was blindfolded with hands tied behind his back,” said a community source.

 

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