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‘Soldiers tricked us into a hall then opened fire’, Okuama residents speak on reprisal

Residents of Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State where 16 military personnel were killed have opened up on the…

Residents of Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State where 16 military personnel were killed have opened up on the alleged reprisal.

Daily Trust had reported how troops attached to 181 Amphibious Batallion, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta were killed while on peace mission.

Trouble started when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuoma and Okoloba communities both in the South South State.

There were reports that the military went on a reprisal attack after the incident.

But reacting, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, said the armed forces being a disciplined force complies with its rules of engagement, laws of armed conflict and respect for human rights.

Buba, a Major-General, said the military would not be led by emotions, but by the rule of law even in the face of provocation, adding that the incident would not demoralise or deter gallant troops from carrying out their constitutional duties as expected.

However, speaking with DRTV in Warri, two Okuama residents accused the military of carrying out mass killing.

The residents, who pleaded anonymity, said the soldiers had visited their community for a peacekeeping mission and were received in the town hall.

According to the residents, it was all fine until they asked to take the community chiefs away.

They said the soldiers reacted violently when the community insisted they leave without their chiefs.

On of the residents said: “On the 14th of March, we were at home when some military officials came to our community. We welcomed them and they said that they wanted to walk around the community. They walked around the community and said that they wanted to have a peace talk at the town hall.

“They went to the town hall. The military men were entertained and welcomed. They (the soldiers) asked for the community chairman and community leaders. They sat with them and had a talk. After that, they asked the chairman and some community leaders to follow them.

“We said that they had had the peace talk with the leaders already so they should leave, but the soldiers insisted they had to take them away. The people said no. From there, the army turned the whole story into violence. Right there, in the community town hall, the soldiers started shooting our people there. Killed many of the young people there. People started running; some were killed instantly. Nobody expected any shooting.

“The army went and came back with more reinforcement. About twenty more people were killed immediately.”

Another source said: “The army – they just changed all of a sudden and opened fire on us. Women and children died. We cannot find some of our children and our parents.

“They (the soldiers) killed over 20 of our fellow residents. Some of our buildings were razed. Many residents have fled and there are even dead bodies in the bush where we have been hiding. We want the government to come to our rescue.”

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