MEND in a statement, Monday, said that a civilian commercial transport boat plying the Yenagoa-Fropa (southern Ijaw) route of the state had been attacked by the men of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) on Sunday afternoon.
The explanation given by the JTF’s as reason for the attack which led to the death of 12 passengers leaving one critically injured survivor made up of students, women and children, the statement said, was that they heard the sound of gunfire minutes before the emergence of the passenger boat.
“It is clear that the soldiers acted out of panic and indiscipline and may even have been drunk,” the statement continued.
Meanwhile, The Nigerian military has described as ”baseless and unfounded” the allegation that its soldiers killed 12 unarmed civilians in the restive oil region of the Niger Delta on Sunday.
In response to the claim made by MEND, Lt.-Col. Rabe Abubakar, Coordinator of the joint media centre at the JTF headquarters in the oil city of Warri, said ”The issue of the allegation of us killing 12 people is not only baseless and unfounded, but it is yet another calculated attempt to tarnish the image of not only the JTF personnel but the Nigerian military”.
Lt.-Col. Abubakar also denied MEND’s account of what transpired, instead saying four militants riding in a speed boat fired on a military boat that was conveying newly-deployed soldiers to Bomadi.
The group, whose attacks have reduced Nigeria’s oil production by a fifth and contributed to high oil prices, vowed to retaliate ”at the appropriate time”, while calling on the state government to investigate the incident and compensate the families of the victims as soon as possible.