Six persons were yesterday shot dead by security agents and about 25 others critically injured at Idjerhe (Jesse) Kingdom in Ethiope-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Reports say soldiers opened fire when villagers who wanted to lynch a suspected ritualist stoned them to prevent them from taking away the suspect from the palace of the monarch for interrogation.
In a reprisal attack, angry villagers torched the palace of Ovie of Idjerhe, His Royal Majesty, Erhikevwe I, who, they suspected, invited the soldiers.
“Three persons were killed at first, but the death toll increased later, as the youths continued their attack on soldiers,” a source said.
Soldiers, however, rescued the embattled monarch by whisking him away from the palace.
“Jesse is on fire, soldiers are everywhere, there is tension, and nobody knows what is going to happen next. This is disastrous,” a villager said.
When contacted for comment on the incident, spokesperson of the Police in Delta State, Mr. Charles Muka said, “Please, give me some time, we are still gathering information on what happened.”
Muka later confirmed that three persons were shot dead, one hospitalized and 12 others arrested in connection with the incident, adding that the Police did not shoot anybody.
Reports say trouble started when the villagers seized a man suspected to be a ritualist, and brought him to the palace of the king, expecting that he would authorize them to carry out jungle justice on the suspect.
A source said ritualists have been on rampage in the area for two weeks running, killing about nine persons. Following this, the monarch set up a committee to probe the development.
The villagers it was gathered mounted a search party and the efforts reportedly paid off when one of the suspected ritualists was caught in the bush and brought to the palace.
The monarch, however, resisted the pleas of his people to lynch the suspect and consequently invited security agents to handle the matter.
He urged the people to allow security agents to interrogate the suspect and get more information about the activities of his gang.
His subjects, particularly the youths, were angry that the monarch defied them and invited soldiers to take away the suspect for interrogation and therefore stoned them.
“They tried to stop the soldiers who came lawfully take away the suspect and that made the soldiers to shoot indiscriminately, gunning down about three persons in the first instance, another person later died,” a source said.
Jesse became violent when the people saw that some persons had been shot dead.
“That was what made them to attack and set the palace ablaze,” he added.