Ten out of the 12 policemen are said to have been killed in an ambush on Saturday night in Bayelsa State, have had their bodies recovered, says the State Police Command yesterday.
Twelve policemen on escort duty were murdered along the Azuzama waterways of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state in an attack for which the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had already claimed responsibility for.
The bodies which had already started decomposing were brought to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa on Tuesday evening by policemen who blocked the mortuary area of the hospital, keeping journalists away and seizing the cameras of newsmen who attempted to capture the scene.
A statement by Governor Seriake Dickson and signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson said a combined team of security operatives recovered the 10 bodies along the creeks and it quoted the State Commissioner of Police, Mr Kingsley Omire who was not at the scene to receive the bodies.
The dead policemen were said to have been stripped of their uniforms and rifles after the attacks. Some of the bodies were reportedly mutilated and burnt beyond recognition.
The families of the deceased were kept waiting for a long time at the Government Jetty, Yenagoa, which was protected by armed policemen and members of the state security outfit nicknamed Operation Door Akpo. When they were eventually brought ashore, they were denied access to the bodies.
The owner of one of the boats in which the dead policemen were attacked told this correspondent that the gunmen took away the bodies of the victims, mutilated them and burnt some of them. He added that the bodies were not recovered from the river by divers but further down the creeks where the gunmen had mutilated them.
“That was why it took a long time to see their bodies,” he said.
He, however, countered the claim of Omire that the policemen were attacked because the boat in which they were travelling had become faulty, saying the boat was in motion when it was attacked.
“The boat was moving at a slow pace because of the capacity of its engine when their occupants were attacked,” he said.
Dickson said on Tuesday that the recovery of the bodies was contrary to media reports that the killers went away with the bodies of the dead policemen. He also debunked the claim by MEND that it was responsible for the attack.
“The recent development has put paid to the fact that the attack was carried out by a group of disgruntled ex-militants who have issues to settle among themselves, but have clearly overstepped their bounds by their action”, he said.
He restated his administration’s stance on zero tolerance for criminality and assured the bereaved families and the entire people of the state that the security operatives would arrest the perpetrators.
He also told the families of the 12 policemen killed in the attack that their deaths would not be in vain as the government “is determined more than ever before to bring the perpetrators to book.”
MEND on Sunday claimed that its fighters killed the 12 policemen whose boat was ambushed in Azuzama on Saturday and that their deaths were to teach the security forces a lesson for scorning its warning.
The militant group had last week announced that it would resume attacks in the oil rich Niger Delta by Friday to avenge alleged collaboration between the Federal Government and South Africa to jail its former leader, Henry Okah.
Security agencies had dismissed the threat and said they were ready for MEND which tagged its promised resurgence of attacks, “Hurricane Exodus.”