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Nigeria: 16 soldiers killed in Delta state community clashes

March 16, 2024

The peacekeeping soldiers were responding to a distress call during fighting between two communities over a land dispute. A few arrests have been made following the ambush of the troops.

Nigerian soldiers patrol near two schools where students were kidnapped in Kuriga, Kaduna, Nigeria, on March 9, 2024
Troops deployed in the Bomadi region were reportedly surrounded by young people and killed, according to a military statementImage: Sunday Alamba/AP Photo/picture alliance

Sixteen soldiers were killed during a mission to halt clashes between two communities in Nigeria's southern state of Delta, an army spokesman said Saturday.

The attack in the oil-rich region happened in the Bomadi council area Thursday when the soldiers, deployed to keep the peace, "were surrounded by some community youths and killed," Defense Headquarters spokesman Brigadier General Tukur Gusau said in a statement.

Among the dead were a commanding officer, two majors, one captain and 12 soldiers, Gusau added.

He said the soldiers, from the 181 Amphibious Battalion, had "responded to a distress call" following trouble between the Okuama and Okoloba communities.

School abductions spotlight Nigeria's kidnapping crisis

Frequent clashes over land ownership

According to local media reports, the two communities have clashed repeatedly over land ownership in recent weeks, leaving several people dead. One man was abducted during the fighting, with the Nigerian military unable to get him released. 

An investigation has been opened and several arrests have been made in relation to the Thursday's ambush on the Nigerian soldiers.  

"So far, a few arrests have been made while steps [are] in place to unravel the motive behind the attack," Gusau added.

Nigerian soldiers are mostly deployed on special security operations across the West African country.

But they are sometimes sent to resolve conflict in communities, especially areas with an inadequate security presence or where clashes are common.

The fighting, sometimes deadly, is often over land or compensation for oil spills by energy companies in many Delta state communities.

mm/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)