Killers of soldiers won’t go unpunished -Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu has described as cowards, the killers of 16 soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel, two majors and a captain while on a peacekeeping mission, last Thursday, in Okuoma, Bomadi LGA of Delta State.

President Tinubu, who strongly condemned the incident as a wicked act, said it was unacceptable. 

In a statement he personally signed titled “Statement on the killing of Nigerian soldiers on a peace mission to Okuoma community in Delta State”, the president vowed: “The cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished.”

President Tinubu, who described the incident as grievous and needless, said he joined well-meaning Nigerians and the armed forces to mourn the gallant soldiers.

He condoled with the families of the fallen soldiers, their colleagues and their loved ones, noting that the incident, once again, demonstrated the dangers faced by the nation’s servicemen and women in the line of duty. President Tinubu said: “I salute their heroism, courage and uncommon grit and patriotism.”

The statement read: “On Saturday morning, the Nigerian people and I woke up to the dreadful news of the unprovoked killing of our brave military personnel during a rescue mission to Okuoma Community, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

“The incident occurred on Thursday, March 14, 2024, when our troops, responding to a crisis between Okuama and Okoloba communities in Delta State, were ambushed. A Commanding Officer, two Majors, one Captain and 12 soldiers sadly lost their lives. One civilian was also killed.

As the Commander-in-Chief, I join all well-meaning Nigerians and the men and women of our armed forces to mourn and express my profound grief over the needless death of our gallant soldiers.

“I extend my profound condolences to the families of these fallen soldiers, their colleagues and their loved ones. The military high command is already responding to this incident. The cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished.

“This incident, once again, demonstrates the dangers faced by our servicemen and women in the line of duty. I salute their heroism, courage and uncommon grit and patriotism.

“As a nation, we must constantly remember and honour all those who have paid the ultimate price to keep our country safe, strong and united. The officers and men who died in Okuoma community have joined the pantheon of great men and women who gave their all, with honour, in the service of our fatherland.

“Members of our armed forces are at the heart and the core of our nationhood. Any attack on them is a direct attack on our nation. We will not accept this wicked act.

The Defense Headquarters and Chief of Defense Staff have been granted full authority to bring to justice anybody found to have been responsible for this unconscionable crime against the Nigerian people.

“My government will not relent until we achieve peace and tranquillity in every part of Nigeria. May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and keep the members of our armed forces safe.”

Meanwhile, residents of the Okuama community have fled after men suspected to be officers of the Nigerian Army razed down the community following the killing of 16 soldiers. This is following a standalone post made on the official X handle of the defence headquarters where it said, ‘The Audacity’, possibly referring to the killing of soldiers.

In the early hours of Saturday, 14 bodies of the killed soldiers were recovered by men of the joint task force under the supervision of the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Jamal Abdussalam, at Okuama community. Some of the bodies were said to have been beheaded, while the stomachs and hearts of others were ripped open.

At the NDDC jetty in the community, the bodies of the commanding officer and the two killed majors were seen floating by the riverbank as others were separated on land.

The Chief of Defense Staff, Christopher Musa, subsequently ordered a probe into the tragic killing of four senior officers and 12 soldiers. It was gathered that the slain military officers responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuama and Okoloba communities, both in Delta State, before they were killed last Thursday.

Confirming the incident in a statement, on Saturday, the Acting Director, Defense Information, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, said the victims were surrounded by some community youths when troops of the 181 Amphibious Battalion were on a peace mission in the Bomadi Local Government Area of the state.

The defense spokesman said the incident has been reported to the Delta State Government and the Chief of Defense Staff has also directed that the culprits be unmasked. He revealed that some suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

“The Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General Christopher Gwabin Musa, has directed the immediate investigation and arrest of those involved in the heinous crime. The occurrence has been reported to the Delta State Government.

“However, the military remains focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the country. So far, a few arrests have been made while steps in place to unravel the motive behind the attack,” he said.

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