By Jimitota Onoyume
Sounds of gunshots rented the air in the early hours of Monday in Ngbuoshimini in Obio Akpor local gover      nment area of Rivers State as unknown assailants stormed the place, leaving in their trail about 15 persons dead.

Ngbuoshimini victims

Residents said the shooters came in speed boats at about 3am and went round the community shooting sporadically.   The police said the men had no clear target, claiming they merely came to stamp their authority as a cult group identified as Icelanders. Spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said preliminary investigation showed the assailants were members of the cult group.

According to him, the police had identified the cultists, adding that they were on their trail. Eight persons were later declared wanted for the killings.

Nasiru, one of those shot dead, was a security guard in the abattoir in the community, called the Slaughter.

One of the residents, Alhaji Iliasu Bashir, claimed Nasiru, like many others killed, had nothing to do with cultism.   Sunday Vanguard gathered that the deceased security guard was among those first gunned down by the assailants before they went into the community.

“As soon as they alighted from their speed boats, Nasiru and one other person were the two they first saw and immediately opened fire on them”,   another resident said.

Incinerated victims

Most of those killed came to pass the night around the abattoir and market area.

According to a resident, who gave his name simply as Andrew, some of those who lost their lives were among the persons displaced in shanties around Eagle Island area when government pulled down the structures to rid the area of brigands.

A pregnant woman and the only son of a widow were among those killed by the rampaging assailants.

It was a gory sight at an apartment where three victims were roasted.

The attackers reportedly shot at a gas cylinder placed at one end of the apartment thus incinerating the place.

A relative of one of the victims said the family decided to bury the corpse immediately.

“No need taking him to the morgue because no mortuary can handle this burnt corpse. So, as a family, we decided that he should be buried immediately”, he said.

Conflicting figures

There are conflicting figures on the death toll. The police confirmed 10 persons but residents said they were about 15 shot at different locations in the community. It was wailing in the whole community when Vanguard visited.

The relatives of many of those killed could not be traced, lending credence to the insinuation that they were just passing the night around the market due to accommodation problem.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that there had been tension in the community since the assassination of one Chief Minikwu Chukwu in May allegedly over differences arising from a dispute.

The community hosts the headquarters of an oil major.   There had been speculations that tension in the area had often been traced to struggle for who access what from the oil major

Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Wike has offered to fund the investigation by the police to unmask the killers, adding that he would step up security in the area with a   structure to be built for the police.

The governor spoke when he visited the community with security chiefs, including the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Zak Ahmed.

He said: “This is most unfortunate.   Those involved in this dastardly act will not go scot free. Security agencies have been empowered to go after them.

“Everybody should remain calm as we are taking measures to ensure that our people are protected from such ugly attacks.

Ngbuoshimini victim

“We will not leave any stone unturned. We will fight the cultists to the point that they will know that Rivers State is not a safe haven for them.

“But we require the support of the public. Security agencies have given us the assurance that they will do their best”.

In a related development, the mother of three of the eight persons declared wanted by the police in connection with the Monday killings say her children are innocent.

The suspects had been identified as David Orji, Veejay Orji and Amadi Orji. The mother pleaded with Wike to step into the matter to ensure her children were not killed unjustly by security agencies.

At press time, policemen had been deployed to the area to maintain peace.   Life was yet to return fully to the community. Sources said some residents had relocated for fear that there could be a reprisal action since the police linked the killings to cult war.

 

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.