By Emma Amaize &Â Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURTâ€” THERE were fears, yesterday evening, that militants and soldiers clashed in Sama, Asari-Toru Local Government, Rivers State while the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) in an online statement blamed the clash on the security operatives.
MEND had earlier announced new threat to the 60-day ceasefire it declared on July 15 consequent upon the release of its leader, Henry Okah by the Federal Government.
This is the second time the militant group is announcing threat to the ceasefire. The first was barely 24 hours after it declared cessation of hostilities when it alleged that the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta was heading towards some of its camps around the boundary between Delta and Ondo to attack militants despite the amnesty that was proclaimed by the Federal Government.
In an electronic mail statement, Tuesday, entitled, â€œThreat to Ceasefireâ€ by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, the group said, â€œOn the morning of Monday, August 17, 2009, the JTF in Sama, Asari Toru Local Government Area of Rivers state executed an unarmed man and dumped his body into the river.â€
â€œThe youths from the area mobilized and carried out a reprisal attack on the army unit responsible for the extra-judicial killing and killed a soldier and went away with his rifle.
â€œSuch irresponsible actions by the military even if it is targeted at civilians is not acceptable and can jeopardize the current ceasefire if repeatedâ€, the militant group stated.
According to him, â€œthe Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) stands behind communities who take actions to defend themselves and retaliate extra-judicial killings by the military.â€
However, the coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Centre of the JTF,Â Â Colonel Rabe Abubakar denied the allegation, saying the soldiers were on their normal routine duty in the region, adding that the fact that the government had proclaimed amnesty did not mean that the task force was no longer protecting oil facilities in the region.
He also said that he was yet to get any information on the alleged incident and assured he would call back after verifying the true position.