In what appears to be a resumption of violent activities, gunmen suspected to be Niger Delta militants on Monday attacked and killed four soldiers and a civilian in the Ekeremor waterways in Bayelsa State.
The armed militants reportedly laid ambush for the soldiers along the waterways of Letugbene in Ekeremor local government area of the state. A community leader in the area alleged that soldiers had burnt down homes and destroyed property in an apparent retaliation.
Sources in the community revealed on Wednesday that armed militants ambushed a team of soldiers returning from a trip to Letugbene community.
A security source, who asked not to be named, said the militants outnumbered the soldiers, and easily overpowered their victims. He said that the attackers took the soldiers to a location in the creeks and shot them dead in cold blood, adding that the militants then carted away the dead soldiers’ weapons and hardware.
Our source said a civilian who was a boat operator for the soldiers jumped into the water, but was shot and killed.
Tare Porri, a youth leader who confirmed the development, condemned the killing of the soldiers.
Mr. Porri, who is the chairman of the central zone of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), described the attack as “bizarre and unprovoked.” He said the victims were killed in cold blood, adding that his zonal leadership would meet to discuss the issue and other problems affecting the zone.
Mr. Porri said he was worried that the action of the suspected militants had pushed the Joint Task Force, “Operation Delta Safe,” to begin a military operation in Letugbene and Ebelabiri. He said residents in the areas accused the military of burning down houses and destroying other in an apparent operation to find the soldiers’ unknown killers.
“Two days ago, four military officers were killed in cold blood alongside a civilian. Military officers went to Letugbene community and on their way back, some persons accosted them and killed all of them,” he said. He added, “Yesterday morning, the military morning retaliated, invaded the communities and burnt down houses. The operations are still ongoing and it is spreading to other communities like Ebelabiri.”
The senior security official, who confirmed the murder of soldiers, lamented the rising incidence of killings of security operatives, saying measures must be adopted to stop the trend.
“Security operatives are now [an] endangered species. It is unacceptable the way security officials deployed to the Niger Delta are killed without provocation by people they dedicated their lives to protect," he said.
“In Bayelsa, policemen, civil defenders and soldiers are constantly killed. It is barbaric.”
Officials of the joint military task force in the Niger Delta declined to respond to calls to their mobile phones and did not respond to text messages requesting information on their alleged reprisals against members of the communities where the soldiers were killed.