By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT—No fewer than 15 persons, including a pregnant woman, were reportedly murdered yesterday at Mgboshimili area of Obio Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, by unknown gunmen.
However, Rivers State Police Command spokesman, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, who confirmed the killings, said 10 people were killed.
Community sources told Vanguard that three of those killed were roasted to death as their assailants reportedly shot at a gas cylinder in their apartment, triggering a fire which consumed them.
An eyewitness said one of the three people burnt beyond recognition in the apartment was a lady, adding that “some of the corpses are still in the apartment.”
Vanguard gathered that the gunmen that stormed the community in the early hours of the day in speed boats, headed straight to the area around a market in the community, where they killed two persons suspected to be guarding cows meant for sale.
The eyewitness added: “They then went to an apartment, where they set a portion of the building ablaze after shooting three persons, including a female, dead.”
Community sources, who do not want their names in print, said the gunmen, at the end of their operation, left about 15 persons dead, “five of them females, including a pregnant lady, while the others were men, including her husband and a widow’s only son.”
Nobody could say what led to the bloodletting, but community sources said there had been clashes among rival groups in the area, adding that two persons were shut dead last week.
“Some of us think it a reprisal attack, though we cannot say for certain as the community has not been peaceful for some time now,” a source said.
Recall that unknown gunmen murdered a community leader in the area, Chief Minikwu Chukwu, in May. Since the incident there had been tension in the community.
Icelanders behind killings— Police
Meanwhile, Police spokesman, DSP Omoni, said preliminary investigations showed that the attack was carried out by members of the dreaded Icelanders cult, adding that some of the assailants had been identified.
He said policemen were combing the area for details.
His words: “Unknown gunmen invaded Mgboshimili. At the time we got there, we confirmed 10 dead. Some persons were taken to the hospital. Preliminary investigations revealed that it was carried out by Icelanders.
“We are combing the area and our men have been deployed there to ensure peace.
One of those who lost a relative said the family had resolved to, immediately, bury the corpse since it was burnt beyond recognition.
“The mortuary people cannot take care of the corpse so we are burying immediately,” he said.
Wike blames Police
The state’s governor, Nyesom Wike, who commiserated with families of those killed, accused the Police of allegedly politicising security in the state.
Governor Wike spoke, yesterday, when he received course participants of the National Defence College, who are on tour, at Government House, Port Harcourt.
He said: “We had a security incident and I expected the Commissioner of Police to be here to brief me and for us to plan to forestall a recurrence, but he will not come. He may brief me over the telephone.
“We wrote to the Inspector General of Police to transfer those who sabotage our security out of the state, but he chose to leave them. Instead, the security saboteurs are busy participating in kidnapping and robbery with the use of SARS platform.”
PDP, APC trade blames
On his part, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Emma Okah, said: “The state government is ready to spare nothing to support the security agencies get these killers irrespective of where they are found.
“Even in their holes, smoke them out from there and you should have no rest until we get to the end of the case, until we see justice.”
The government also accused the Police of allegedly deploying about 1,000 officers, armoured personnel carriers from strategic locations in the state to the Eleme venue of a rally of All Progressives Congress, APC, weekend, saying it created an opening for the development witnessed yesterday.
APC, on its part, blamed Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the incident, saying the cultists behind the brutal murders were used by PDP to rig elections in the state.
Spokesman of APC in the state, Mr. Chris Finebone, said effort by security agencies to achieve enduring peace will continue to fail.