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Army confirms killing of 11 soldiers, seven civilians

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• 50 arrested, senator condemns alleged invasion

The Nigerian Army has officially confirmed the killing of 11 of its personnel, including a lieutenant while one officer is still missing after last Thursday’s bloody clash between the Kpaidna community in Bosso Local Council of Niger State and soldiers from 31 Field Artillery Brigade, Minna.

The army also confirmed the arrest of 50 others. But the senator representing Niger East senatorial zone, David Umoru, has strongly condemned the alleged invasion of the community, saying that the reason given by the army is unacceptable.

The General Officer Commanding One Mechanised Division of the Nigeria Army, Kaduna, Maj.-Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade who gave the figures in Minna yesterday while briefing reporters shortly after visiting the community where the clash took place, said seven armed bandits were also killed while about 50 others were arrested in connection with the killing of the soldiers.

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He promised that those arrested would be released if found innocent after an interrogation.

The GOC insisted that their invasion of the community was based on intelligence reports that there were arms stockpiled by the community, adding that the army decided to embark on what he called “cordon and search operation” which resulted in the bloody clash.

The senator who was reacting to the invasion said that the reason given by the army for its action was wrong.

Umoru said: “The military has not given any cogent reasons for this crude invasion and brutalisation of my people. I am of the belief that the claim that the villagers had piled up arms in their homes upon which the armed soldiers hinged a seal-off and search operation in the village, is not tenable and totally unacceptable in a democratic government.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to inform the public that this community was only about a month ago attacked by alleged Fulani herders during which many innocent people were killed and over 500 others displaced.

“Many of the victims of the heinous attack are still living in refugee camps in Minna and the military authorities in Niger State, I believe, are aware of this.”

He disclosed that the trauma that the said herdsmen’s attack had inflicted on the community was still fresh, adding that the invasion by the soldiers was like adding “salt to injury.”

“I am reliably informed that this time around when the sleeping villagers were woken by the brutal force of the invasion in the thick of the night, the first thing that came to their mind was that it was another attack by the same Fulani herders on rampage of their community which resulted in general pandemonium and commotion.

“The armed troops drawn from the 31 Artillery Brigade in Minna and the Air force Base in Bosso, stormed the villages in a brutal commando-style at about 1:00 a.m., waking up the sleeping villagers, causing distress and inflicting pain on them.

“It is unfortunate that instead of the military to provide adequate protection to the helpless villagers, it has taken upon itself to inflict more pain on them in an unnecessary operation.”

Condemning the action of the army in totality, Umoru wondered why the operation, as the army would like the public to believe, which was aimed at securing public peace and enhancing security or searching for arms did not involve the police or Directorate of State Security (DSS).

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“I make bold to ask: Why was the police not aware and or involved in it? I am informed that members of the community had sent a distress call to the police indicating that they were being attacked by ‘Fulani herders’ and the police responded to the call and rushed to the scene only to discover it was a military operation that was ongoing.”

He alleged that the military had indiscriminately arrested over 60 people from the villages who are being kept in detention in the military barracks in Minna and therefore called on the Chief of Army Staff, the Brigade Commander and the authorities concerned to immediately release them.

“The fundamental rights of these Nigerians as guaranteed by the Constitution must be respected and protected. It is the responsibility of the police, and not the army, to detain civilian suspects,” he said.


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