A soldier and six civilians were reportedly killed in a communal clash in the Obayantor Community of Ikpoba-Okha Local Government, Edo State.
The cause of the killing was a clash between rival youth groups in the community over leadership tussle.
Although the military has denied the death of any of its personnel, it was gathered that there was a clash that led to the deaths when a faction of youths in the community were said to have led soldiers into the community to comb it over alleged possession of firearms by a rival group and in the process, a soldier was reportedly killed and a reprisal left six people dead.
An eyewitness who didn’t want his name mentioned, said the incident occurred on Saturday night and that his 80-year-old mother-in-law had to trek through the bush for hours before she was rescued and brought to him in Benin City.
“As I am talking to you, she is with me in Benin City and we have to arrange for somebody to go and massage her because she trekked through the bush before she got to me. She said they don’t even know what happened but that on Saturday night they started hearing gunshots everywhere in the community and they just started running into the bushes,” he said.
The Edo State police command spokesman Bello Kontongs, when contacted, said, “It was a military operation so I don’t have any information on that. But once I have, I will let you know.”
But the Nigerian Army 4 Brigade, Benin on Monday said that the Brigade never carried out a reprisal in the community, rather it said that the brigade only carried out operations in the community based on intelligence from the Department of State Services.
The Brigade’s spokesman, Yemi Sokoya, said against some reports making the rounds, soldiers were not in the community to carry out a reprisal, adding that the personnel of the brigade were guided by rules of engagement and code of conduct for internal security.
According to him, the brigade got a report from the DSS about hoodlums disturbing the community, and a stockpile of weapons.
“We found out that it was true because as soon as we got there, some of the hoodlums engaged the troop in a gun duel.
“However, even if there was a communal issue before now, with what is happening in the country today, if you are a commander and you are told people are stockpiling weapons somewhere, you will go there and ensure that those weapons are seized and those involved arrested. I think that is the right thing to do and that is exactly what the commander did.
“The issue of communal crisis is not part of why we went there. It was basically based on a report that hoodlums in that community are stockpiling weapons and terrorising the community,” he added.
Sokoya disclosed that in the course of the operations, some weapons which include two AK-47 rifles, three English pump action guns, one double barrel, 32 cartridges, five mobile phones and an ID card belonging to the state vigilante were recovered