Gunmen disguised as priests executed three Nigerian soldiers in the oil-rich Niger Delta, Reuters learned from a military source and residents.
The assailants reportedly stole military equipment after killing the Nigerian troops on Monday.
According to various news outlets, the deadly incident took place in the Nembe area of Nigeria’s Bayelsa state.
The Nigerian military is reportedly searching for the killers.
Nigeria Today notes:
The gunmen, who operated in many speedboats, were said to have dressed in white robes to deceive the soldiers.
Their outfit, it was gathered, was designed to create the impression that they were on a funeral procession.
Christian Today adds:
The [Nembe] area has been a flashpoint for violence since tensions arose in the early 1990s between indigenous people and foreign oil companies. Groups including the Ogoni and Ijaw believe they are being exploited and that they are not being rewarded by central government for the use of their resources. An amnesty program has seen a sharp reduction in violent incidents.
Suspicion for the latest attack is likely to fall on a new group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which announced its existence in March 2016. The group has attacked oil producing facilities, causing a fall in Nigeria’s oil production to its lowest level in 20 years.
Nigeria Today, which described the assailants as “militants,” also reports that although no specific group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the NDA is the likely culprit.
The Nigerian news outlet points out:
The militants ambushed the soldiers at the newly established Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Delta Safe (ODS) checkpoint around 9:30am [on Monday]…
The militants carted away military gunboats, riffles and ammunition after sacking JTF operatives at the checkpoint…
Nigeria’s military has reportedly launched an investigation into the incident and has deployed troops to comb the area where the attack took place in search of the gunmen.
We are leaving [our community] in fear because the military may decide to raid the community. Some persons are already leaving while others are thinking of doing so because of the tension in the Niger Delta.
Christian Today reports:
The NDA aims to create an independent state in the Delta, where oil extraction has been held responsible for widespread human rights violations, corruption and massive environmental degradation.
While the Nigerian army is able to control the region by force, the NDA is regarded as a major irritant for Nigeria’s President [Muhammadu] Buhari.