By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”Okolobiri community, on the outskirt of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, scene of Tuesdayâ€™s violent clash between soldiers and some suspected cultists, has been deserted by its young population, leaving behind the aged and children.
Vanguard gathered that the fear of the natives might be connected with alleged plans by the military to invade the community in search of two missing rifles of its personnel.
The two missing rifles, which though are being down-played by the military authorities, were reportedly stolen from the soldiers that lost their lives in Tuesdayâ€™s skirmish.
Though the situation in the community appeared calm, with most of the homes under lock, sources told Vanguard that the news of the alleged missing rifles is causing the natives serious concern.
The JTF, it was learnt, had directed the community to return the missing rifles allegedly stolen from their colleagues killed in the violent skirmish that erupted between some soldiers and suspected cultists.
Seven persons, including two soldiers and a spiritual leader, lost their lives in the clash.
News of the death of the soldiers was said to have triggered the exodus of the natives for fear of possible reprisal attack from the Joint Task Force.
But a source told Vanguard yesterday that some prominent indigenes of the area have waded into the matter with a view to dousing the rising tension.
The source said part of the move was to plead with the military to exercise patience to enable them get to the youths to track down those in possession of the missing rifles.
The violent clash which led to the residence of the spiritual leader being razed down, it was gathered, started as a minor disagreement between a soldier attached to one of the oil servicing firms in the area and the boys of the spiritualist.
The boys were said to be in their usual procession, obstructing traffic, when the soldier ran into them.
A heated argument was said to have ensued between the soldier and the boys.
The aggrieved soldier was said to have left the scene only to come with reinforcement leading to the violent clash.
At press time, the natives were still fleeing their homes.
Contacted, the Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre, Lt Col Timothy Antigha ,said the security outfit had no problem with the community but was silent on the alleged missing rifles.