By Emmanuel AdehÂ in Yenagoa
The alleged killing of four persons, including a mother and her six-month old baby in Oluasiri, Nembe local council of Bayelsa State, has sparked anger among Ijaw youths.
THISDAY gathered that soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe (OpDS), who were purportedly in search of suspected militants opened fire on the victims, instantly killing four of them.
Among those confirmed dead were one Mr. Wilson Patason, Mrs. BeautyÂ Â Gamage, her baby and another man whose nameÂ Â could not be immediately ascertained.
Calls to the Spokesman of the JTF in the region, Maj. Ibrahim Abdullahi, indicated that the phone was switched while messages were yet to be responded to at the time of putting this report together.
During the raid which occurred on Thursday, many persons were wounded and are said to be undergoing treatment for various levels of injuries, during the operationÂ Â launched to dislodge the suspected militants and sea pirates allegedly hiding in the community.
However, a security source alleged that the soldiers returned fire, following attacks from the suspected militants, a claim indigenes ofÂ Â Oluasiri community debunked insistingÂ Â that the military attack was unprovoked.
â€œSome suspected sea pirates and militants had been residing within the community. The armed militants were residing in the community forcefully and had become lawless which perhaps caused the security operations.
“But as you know, these boys also pay some military men and may have been tipped off by some of their military friends. They had leftÂ Â the community before soldiers arrived. The soldiers arrived in six gunboats and started shooting indiscriminately. It is sad and unprofessional”, the sourceÂ Â said.
However, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, has expressed angerÂ Â over the killing of the mother, her child and two others.
The body maintained that the victims were a case too many of the harassment of innocent Ijaw people andÂ Â communities by the JTF which it said randomly invaded areas in the region under the guise of looking for criminals.
Mr. Alfred Kemepado, Secretary General of the youth body insisted that communities in Bayelsa and the entire Niger Delta now live in perpetual fear of death since it had now become commonplace for killing of innocent and harmless children and women.
He noted that it wasnâ€™t the first time soldiers had carried out extra-judicial killings in the region, stressing that almost all the states where Ijaw people were found had tasted of the bile of the Nigerian military.
â€œFrom Ajakpa community in Ondo State, violence in the Niger Delta by security agencies is because by that, they will increase their security budget. Now, they have graduated from killing our adults to killing of our infants.
â€œ We are calling on the international community and prominent legal minds like Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN),Â Â Barr. Larry Selekeowei (SAN),Â Â and the likes of Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and the human rights community to come to our aid and stop the bloodshed currently threatening the existence of the Ijaw peopleâ€, Kemepado added.
He argued that the violence against the Ijaw people was being deliberately promoted to â€œde-market us for economic reasonsâ€ since it is in the interest of the Niger Delta detractors to do so.
â€œThis looks like a masterplan. This is also to urge the European Union, African Union, the Hague and the ECOWAS to intervene before it gets out of hand,â€ the IYC said.
Also, a statement jointly signed by the President of Oluasiri Development Union,Â Â Gamage Difurotogu, and that of Oluasiri Youth Federation, Kienworio Tanga, called for a probe of the incident.
â€œ It is show ofÂ Â stark recklessness for the military to invade hitherto peaceful communities with six gunboats, causing undue pandemonium, all in the name of searching for suspected criminals in the area,â€ they said.