The Bayelsa State Police command has recovered 10 bodies of police officers killed last Saturday by members of the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the Azuzuama waterways of the state. Two bodies remain missing, according to our source.
A security source in Bayelsa stated that the bodies of the slain officers were badly mutilated by the militants who killed them. The source added that the militants had taken the mutilated bodies into the bush to conceal them. He credited the discovery of the slightly decomposed remains to an intensive manhunt by members of the joint task force made up of soldiers, the navy and marine police. “Their valiant effort yielded results,” said our source, adding that the search party found the “bodies in bad state.”
In an official confirmation, the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner, Kingsley Omire, stated in Yenagoa that a combined team of security operatives today recovered the bodies of the slain policemen along the creeks of Azuzuama in southern Ijaw local government area.
Our correspondent reported that distraught and grief-stricken relatives of the murdered policemen had as early as 10 a.m. besieged the police marine base in Bebelebiri area of Yenagoa to await the arrival of the bodies.
Victor Ebebi, an older brother of one of the victims, Lucky Ebebi, told our correspondent that the police merely told him that his brother, who was 31, was missing. He added that he was at the base to find out if his brother’s remains had been recovered.
“I came to Yenagoa from Bomadi in Delta State only to be disappointed that we were not even allowed to check if my brother’s corpse has been found,” Mr. Ebebi said.
Our source disclosed that the bodies did not arrive until 7 p.m. (Nigerian time) on Tuesday amidst tight security. Relatives of the dead policemen and journalists were locked out of the premises of the jetty belonging to the Bayelsa State Ministry of Transport.
The slain officers’ bodies emitted an overpowering odor which forced their wailing relatives as well as sympathizers to cover their noses. Late tonight, SaharaReporters learnt that the remains had been deposited at the mortuary of the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa.
The murdered officers were part of a 50-man team deployed from the police command headquarters in Yenagoa to escort some politically connected individuals to a burial in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa.
The ill-fated boat with the officers was heading to Azuzuama for the burial of the deceased mother of Kile Torughedi, an ex-militant leader who embraced the Federal Government's amnesty and currently serves as a special assistant to Governor Seriake Dickson on maritime security.
A security source told SaharaReporters that the boat conveying the policemen to the burial came under attack mid-sea when it developed engine trouble. The gunmen, suspected to be militants, shot and killed the 12 policemen. The remains of two of the slain officers are yet to be recovered, said our source, adding that the search for them was ongoing.
MEND had earlier claimed responsibility for the killings. Even so, the police as well as the Bayelsa State government denied the group’s involvement.