Militants who killed 12 policemen in Azuzuama, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, escaped with their bodies, arms, ammunition and uniforms.
None of the bodies of the policemen had been recovered by divers as at press time last night.
The Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Kingsley Omire, said the slain policemen comprised two inspectors, four Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and six constables. He did not name them.
Omire said a search party had been sent to the scene. They include divers, who are expected to go under water to search for the bodies.
The policemen were on escort duty from Yenagoa, the state capital, in a speed boat heading for Azuzuama for the burial of the mother of an ex-militant leader, Kile Torughedi, aka Young Shall Grow, who is also a Special Assistant to Bayelsa Governor on Maritime Security.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the killing of the policemen.
It had earlier threatened to resume hostilities and sustained attacks, codenamed: “Hurricane Exodus” as a result of the 24-year jail term slammed on one of its leaders, Henry Okah, in a South African court on March 26.
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 militant group declared that its fighters killed the policemen, because the Joint Task Force (JTF) dismissed its Hurricane Exodus as an empty threat.
Some former leaders of the MEND in Delta and Bayelsa states have gone into hiding, following the controversy surrounding the killing of the policemen.
Renowned MEND commanders, such as Mr. Victor Ebi (aka Boyloaf) and Paul Eris (Ogun Boss), have stayed away from public glare since the weekend incident.
Those who venture out do so with more civilian and police escorts. A top source at the Joint Task Force, “Operation Pulo Shield”, the special security outfit in the area, told the reporter that at least one of the former ex-warlords made “an informal appeal for inclusion of soldiers in his security guards” after the incident.
Former militant leaders, under the auspices of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), have condemned the killing, describing it as an attempt to rubbish the amnesty programme.
The group’s leader, Wilson Reuben (aka Pastor Reuben), also debunked Jomo Gbomo’s claim, saying: “We that are freedom fighters in Bayelsa are saddened that such incident happened in Bayelsa State. We want to state that the purported MEND claim is false.
MEND is not involved and the Amnesty Office is not involved. This is pure misunderstanding between a leader and his boys.”
While conceding that there are cases of deductions from the monthly stipends of the former armed youths, Pastor Reuben blamed the development on the Federal Government’s refusal to implement the terms of the amnesty deal to the letter.
Nevertheless, it was revealed that leaders of the Henry Okah-faction of MEND instigated the attack, using aggrieved former militants.
There is no doubt that there is disharmony in the rank and file of the amnesty beneficiaries in Bayelsa State. Those who are entrusted with the windfall from the struggle are buying cars and building houses and this has left many of their former “boys’ disillusioned.”