150 killed in Nigerian military attack targeting delta militant
LAGOS: A Nigerian military attack using heavily armed soldiers and aerial bombing runs has killed as many as 150 people in the oil-rich southern delta, a human rights activist said yesterday.
Oghebejabor Ikim, national co-ordinator for the Forum of Justice and Human Rights Defence, said civilians have suffered a heavy toll in the military operation that began on Wednesday. He did not say how many of the 150 dead were civilians, but said militants left the area before the offensive began.
The attacks on a village in the Niger Delta continued yesterday as the military tried to kill or capture a militant called John Togo, who officials said gave up on a gover nmentsponsored amnesty programme. The amnesty programme for militants brought an uneasy calm to the region, which is now threatened by new militant attacks and government offensives that put civilians at risk.
“I can describe it as a killing spree of innocent civilians,” Ikim said. “Houses have been burnt. Women are raped. There are killings. Is that how to get at John Togo?”
A military spokesman said yesterday that the operation was ongoing. The military has declined to offer a death toll for the operation targeting the village of Ayakoromo and surrounding communities.
An independent assessment of the damage and casualties has yet to be done. The Nigerian Red Cross and other activists have been unable to reach the targeted communities as the military has sealed off the winding muddy creeks that lead to the region. Activists say they continue to see smoke and can hear gunfire.
Video aired on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority
‘It’s a killing spree of innocent civilians … women are raped. There are killings. Is that how to get
at John Togo?’
showed soldiers in flak jackets and helmets travelling by boat through the muddy streams. The network also showed images of what appeared to be suspected militants in custody and a soldier setting a hut ablaze with a lighter.
Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Antigha, a military spokesman, previously said soldiers recovered anti-aircraft guns, rocket- propelled grenades, automatic rifles and dynamite from the three camps targeted.
However, it appears that soldiers have yet to apprehend Togo. Casely Omon-Irabor, a lawyer representing Togo, said yesterday the militant and his fighters were “far away in the high seas” and not in the region being attacked. He said the government had planned a meeting to negotiate a settlement with Togo, but instead had launched a military operation against him.
“I do not see any reason why we are calling for truce and trying to get peace… and yet a party for that peace has breached that agreement and gone into war again,” Omon-Irabor said.
Militants in the Niger Delta have attacked pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company employees and fought government troops since an insurgency began in 2006. The attacks cut drastically into crude production in Nigeria. Production has risen back to 2.2 million barrels of oil a day, in part because many militant leaders and fighters accepted the amnesty deal.
But the main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has promised to carry out new attacks. It claimed responsibility for a dual car bombing that killed at least 12 people during an October 1 independence celebration in Abuja. – Sapa-AP