By Harris-Okon Emmanuel
UYO—It was a bloody weekend in Akwa Ibom as armed militants ambushed soldiers at a checkpoint at Iwukem in the volatile Etim Ekpo council, killing one soldier and five civilians, while two persons sustained injuries.
Apparently piqued by the development, a detachment of soldiers from the military base in the state, yesterday, went on rampage, setting shops and houses ablaze in Iwukem.
Vanguard gathered that the militants, numbering about 50, stormed the sleepy community at about 10p.m. on Saturday night, and attacked the soldiers stationed in the community to maintain the peace.
An eyewitness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Yes, they (the militants) captured two boys and ordered them to take them through the bush path that linked Ikot Esop and Iwuekm.
“The boys took them along the track that led to the junction through Hospital Road. When they came out from the road, they came face to face with the soldiers at the roundabout.
“Because the soldiers were not expecting any eventuality, they were caught off guard; the bullets killed one of them. The Hilux van was set ablaze, while others fled in a hail of bullets. Five other civilians were killed in the crossfire.”
The source said two of the dead civilians came from the neighbouring villages of Ika and Ukanafun, while the other three hailed from Iwukem, where the incident occurred.
The state’s Police Public Relations Officer, Madcon Ogbechie, who confirmed the incident said: “Investigation is already ongoing and we will get to the bottom of it.”
At press time, the military hierarchy at 2 Battalion, Nigeria Army, Uyo, did not respond to inquiries on the issue.
On his part, Divisional Police Officer, Etim Ekpo, Chairman Dore, said efforts were on “to ascertain whether the dead civilians were innocent local residents or some of the hoodlums caught in the crossfire.”
He blamed consistent militants’ activities in the area on cultism, lamenting the inability of the local residents to volunteer information on criminal elements in their neighbourhoods for easy detection and confrontation by security forces.