Residents of Touma community, Bille Kingdom, Degema local government area, Rivers state, are currently in a state of panic following the invasion of the area by armed men believed to be Nigerian soldiers.
According to the news reports, the armed men were allegedly operatives of the Joint Military Task Force(JTF).
On Monday, July 24, they stormed the community burning a total of 15 houses and leaving several residents injured.
Vanguard says that four days after the incident, residents of the community are still on the run for fear and there had been reports that the attack would resume again.
The invasion is said to a reprisal attack following an attack by unknown gunmen in the week of July 17 on an Army House Boat stationed in Touma that led to the death of two civilians and a military man.
Mr Akpoebi Dino a resident of the community who had to run away, had this to say: “It was around 10 a.m., on Monday when we saw over seven gunboats arrive the area. When they got to our community, they started shooting into the community.
“They wounded many people and burnt down over 15 houses. Hoodlums who are not from our area attacked one of their camps around our community.
“Because of that, they (Army) said our community connived with the criminals to attack them. We don’t know what they mean by that.
“We have been living happily with soldiers in the area, we don’t know the cause of the sudden change. When the unknown gunmen attacked the military base, the community helped to take those who sustained bullet wounds to the hospital and deposited about three corpses in the mortuary.”
The chairman, Community Development Committee, Asatubo Kemuel, and the youth president, Obirabi Sylvanus of the Bille Kingdom, in a statement on Thursday, July 27, in Port Harcourt, described the invasion as unwarranted and expressed fear over reports of further attacks by the military.
The statement said:“Residents of Touma community are forced to flee for safety and at present, many persons are reportedly missing.
“At least, one person, Mr. Profit Joseph, a resident of Touma community sustained bullet injuries from gunshot by the soldiers.
“It is alleged that there are also plans to invade and burn down other communities in Bille Kingdom, namely Jike-ama, Kirikama, Gogobo-ama, Opu Bille Bokoama, etc.
“We wish to put it on record that Bille people, and Touma in particular, have not and will never attack any Army or other security personnel.
“We, therefore, strongly condemn this unprecedented attack and maltreatment of innocent civilians, and wanton destruction of properties.”
The Nigerian army is yet to comment on the issue.