Unidentified gunmen have killed a soldier and made away with his service rifle in a border town between Apoi and Azuzuama communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The incident, which reportedly occurred on Monday evening, has thrown the two communities into panic over looming fear of military retaliation and possible invasion.
Many indigenes and residents of the communities were said to have fled to nearby communities and some to the state capital, Yenagoa.
It was learnt that some residents who have no relatives in the neighbouring communities have gone to hide in the forests to escape any imminent invasion by soldiers.
It was gathered that the murdered soldier was on an official duty to Apoi community for a pipeline surveillance job when he was gunned down.
He was said to have been killed in the bush between the boundary of Apoi and Azuzuama communities, where there is a pipeline.
The assailants reportedly carted away with his AK 47 rifle before community members got to the spot.
Sources in Apoi and Azuzuama communities confirmed that some residents had started fleeing the community for fear of reprisals by the military.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “People have started running away from their communities for fear of reprisals by the military. This is because they have heard what happened to other communities where such ugly incidents have taken place in the past.”
Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC) Apoi, Jephter Keme, confirmed the development and said that fears have enveloped the communities.
He said that scores of community members had fled the town to neighboring communities as of Tuesday.
He, however, said the leadership of the community was working with the army authorities to identify and fish out the killers.
Keme said: “We are under tension and restless since the incident took place. We are peace loving community and we are working with the relevant authorities to bring the soldier’s killers to book.
“No indigenes of Apoi can carry out such heinous crime. I believe that those who carried out the evil act are not from Apoi community.”
The Public Relations Officer, 16 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Captain Tonye Wenke, said efforts were on to reach out to the appropriate quarters to confirm the incident.
Spokesman for the joint military task force in the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Major Victor Olukoya, said only the headquarters of the Nigerian Army could speak on the issue.
“It is an operational issue and issues that have to do with operations are directed to Directorate of Media Operation in Abuja,” he said.
But reacting to the development, the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND), Apoi Clan, has condemned the act, describing it as barbaric and inhuman.
Chairman, MOSIEND, Apoi clan, Comrade Fidelis Duba, called on hoodlums operating in the Apoi creek and other areas to desist from such nefarious activities, assuring the security agencies that the clan would work with them to fish out the culprits