IGP, Mohammed Abubakar
•Family members besiege Yenagoa
•JTF on red alert to crush further attacks
By Segun James and Senator Iroegbu
Five days after they were slain by gunmen in the creeks of Bayelsa State, the bodies of 10 of the 12 slain policemen have been recovered.
The bodies, which were in various stages of decomposition, were recovered Tuesday by a combined team of soldiers and policemen along the creeks and waterways of the Azuzama community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
The policemen, who were among a 50-member contingent deployed in Azuzama to provide security for high profile visitors going for the burial of the mother of an ex-militant, Kile Selky Torughedi, alias General Young Shall Grow, were killed in an ambush on Bayelsa waterways. Twelve policemen were said to have been killed in the attack.
The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it carried out the attack in furtherance of its threat to resume hostilities following the conviction of its leader, Henry Okah, by a South African court for terrorism-related offences.
However, contrary to MEND’s claim, the police said the attack was carried out by some aggrieved ex-militants.
The leader of the team of the aggrieved ex-militants has been identified as Commander Virus.
He is said to be the commanding officer from the dismantled camp of Torughedi.
Commander Virus and Torughedi were alleged to have fallen out over money issues, which prompted the former to carry out the attack in an act of vengeance.
To prevent a further breakdown of law and order in the region, the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), “Operation Pulo Shield” deployed in the area to maintain security, has placed its troops on red alert.
The bodies were conveyed in a Bayelsa State Government House ambulance to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa mortuary.
A police source told THISDAY that the bodies were recovered from the forest near the scene of the killing and most of them were badly mutilated.
The bodies were recovered without the uniforms and rifles of the slain policemen.
Speaking to THISDAY, one of the bereaved family members, Mr. Victor Ebebi from Delta State, said he was initially optimistic that his 31-year-old constable brother, Lucky Ebebi, who was part of the contingent, escaped the massacre but he cried uncontrollably when the bodies were brought to Yenagoa.
Policemen on duty at the Government House jetty prevented family members from seeing the bodies when they arrived. This was to discourage them from creating a scene.
The bodies were later deposited at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) mortuary which is less than 200 metres from the jetty at about 6.45 pm Tuesday.
News of the recovery of the decomposed bodies of the policemen attracted a crowd of family members and sympathisers to the FMC waterside.
A team of armed policemen were also deployed to provide security to the team of pathologists and ambulances stationed to convey the bodies to the mortuary.
The spokesman for the Bayelsa Police Command, Mr. Alex Akhigbe, confirmed Tuesday that the bodies of the policemen had been recovered and were deposited at the mortuary.
Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the task force, in collaboration with the police, assisted in the search operation.
The Bayelsa State Government also confirmed the recovery of the bodies of the slain policemen, even as Governor Seriake Dickson vowed to bring their attackers to book.
The government also debunked the claim by MEND that it was responsible for the attack.
The government in a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said: “The development is a pointer to the fact that contrary to MEND’s claim, the bodies were neither taken away nor the attack carried out by its men.
“The attack was carried out by a group of disgruntled ex-militants, who have issues to settle among themselves, but have clearly over stepped their bounds by their action.
“The affected security men were attacked on their way to Azuzuama last Friday. Four of them, according to the security reports, were rescued alive.”
Meanwhile, the JTF assigned to restore and maintain security in the Niger Delta has placed its troops on red alert to deal with the brewing trouble from the militants, especially from MEND.
Nwachukwu told THISDAY Tuesday that the JTF had intensified patrols in all the nine states of the Niger Delta to forestall the increasing acts of lawlessness in the region.
He added that even though the JTF was not directly involved in unravelling the slaughter of the policemen by militants in Bayelsa State, it was collaborating with the police in doing so.
“The five sectors of the JTF covering the nine states in the region are on the red alert. Our maritime and air assets have also been mobilised and we have intensified our patrols to dominate both land and waterways to checkmate any assailant,” he said.