10 policemen's bodies killed by militants found

By The Citizen

The search for the bodies of the 12 policemen killed by militants in Azuzuama, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, has ended grimly.

Ten of the bodies were found burnt in a bush. The slain policemen's arms, ammunition and uniforms were missing.

The bodies were yesterday recovered by security personnel and moved to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

One of the owners of the speed boats used in the movement of the bodies, who pleaded not to be named, disclosed that only the burnt bodies of the victims were recovered.

The bodies were taken to Yenagoa, amid tight security, through the Marine Police Jetty, close to the Bayelsa Government Jetty, not far from the Government House.

Police and other security agencies involved in the search-and-rescue declined comments on the recovery.

The Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Kingsley Omire, had earlier stated that the slain policemen comprised two inspectors, four Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and six constables. He did not name them.

The spokesman of the Joint Task Force (JTF), codenamed Operation Pulo (oil) Shield, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a telephone interview yesterday, said the security outfit was on the trail of the killers of the policemen.

Lt.-Col. Nwachukwu said: 'We will apprehend the gangsters who killed the 12 policemen, to serve as a deterrent to others. The killers will not go unpunished. We are urging Niger Deltans not to panic, but to go about their lawful businesses.'

The JTF's spokesman also disclosed that the search-and-rescue was carried out by operatives of the security outfit, in collaboration with the police.

The slain policemen were on escort duty from Yenagoa in a speed boat heading for Azuzuama for the funeral of the mother of an ex-militant leader, Kile Torughedi (aka Young Shall Grow), who is also a Special Assistant to the Bayelsa Governor on Maritime Security.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the killing of the policemen, saying it struck because its threat to resume hostilities and sustained attacks, codenamed: 'Hurricane Exodus' was ignored. MEND's threat was as a result of the 24-year jail on March 26 of one of its leaders, Henry Okah, in a South African court. Okah was sentenced for his involvement in the October 1, 2010 twin-bomb blasts at the Eagle Square, Abuja during Nigeria's golden independence anniversary.

Twelve persons died in the incident.
The JTF said: 'We will not permit any lawlessness that will jeopardise the peace in the region. We again call on all peace-loving and progressive Niger Deltans to dissociate themselves, their communities and leadership from this gang of retrogrades parading themselves as MEND.'

But a new twist was introduced to the incident yesterday, with the state government saying that the recovery of the bodies showed that the killers did not go away with them.

Besides, said the government, the development is a pointer to the fact that, contrary to MEND's claim, its fighters were not responsible for the attack.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor Daniel Iworiso-Markson, in a statement, said: 'The recent development has put paid to the fact that the attack was carried out by a group of disgruntled ex-militants, who have issues to settle among themselves, but have clearly overstepped their bounds by their action.'

Governor Seriake Dickson, who described the killings as 'unacceptable', noted that there was no truth in the claim that MEND was responsible for the attack.

Restating his administration's stance on zero tolerance for crimes, the governor assured the bereaved families and the entire people of the state that security operatives were closing in on the perpetrators.

The Bayelsa State Government also reassured families of the 12 policemen killed in the attack that their deaths would not be in vain. The government is determined more than ever before to bring the perpetrators to book, Dickson said.

The statement warned that the recently appointed State Special Prosecutor and the Special Team is purely geared towards fast tracking the investigation of criminal cases.

'It emphasised that it was unacceptable for persons, who have committed very grievous crimes to only walk the streets as free men, because of lack of adequate investigation and prosecution of such criminals, who after a while return to their bad ways and threaten the peace and well being of law abiding citizens.

The statement noted that, henceforth, anybody arrested for any offence, especially those that are criminally related, are not only going to be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, but those that are found guilty made to face the full penalties of the law.'