Six days after about 47 policemen and State Security Service operatives were ambushed and killed by the Ombatse Militia Cult in Nasarawa State, the police have yet to recover the bodies of many of its slain personnel.
It was gathered on Sunday that although a search and rescue team was sent to the Assakyo forest, where the armed group had its shrine last week, the corpses of an unknown number of dead policemen were not recovered, including Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Momoh, who led the ill-fated operation.
Also Read: Nasarawa: AIG Takes Over Investigation
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar had told journalists in Lafia, Nasarawa State, on Saturday that four policemen were still being held by the militia group, pleading with the elders in the state to assist the Force in effecting their release.
“We are making every peaceful effort to ensure that some of our men still being held hostages are released unhurt,” Abubakar had said.
When contacted on Sunday, the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said he could not give any information on the number of policemen being held by the militia group.
Mba, who contested the claim that policemen were being held hostage by the group, insisted that the IG might have been misquoted in the media.
He said, “Our personnel are not being held hostage by the group, but I will get across to the right quarters and get you the correct information tomorrow (today). I was not at Lafia when the IG was reported to have said that the group was holding some of our men hostage, but he must have been misquoted.”
More than 35 burnt bodies of policemen had been recovered and deposited at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafia, but many others, including Momoh, could not be accounted for.
The police had flooded Nasarawa State with a huge number of riot policemen from different squadrons, including undercover detectives, Anti-bomb Squad to check the militia group, while investigation had been taken over by the Assistant Inspector-General in charge of Zone 4, Mike Zuokumour.
The police, in a statement by the DFPRO on Sunday, solicited for information from Nigerians on the Ombatse militia group, saying such tips could be provided via phone number 07066228200 (calls or SMS) or email: email@example.com.
The statement quoted, Abubakar as soliciting for public support, and reminding the public that an attack on the security forces of any nation was an attack on the entire nation.
Abubakar appealed for patience and understanding of family and friends of the slain officers, particularly relating to the issue of the release of the bodies of the officers, promising that all corpses would be released as soon as preliminary enquiries were concluded.
In a related development, Governor Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa State has vowed to punish members of the Ombatse, saying the group and its sponsors were driven by political interests, and not religion.
The governor, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Press Affairs, Sani Mairiga, said all those linked to the group would not go unpunished.
“The state government will not watch while some disgruntled individuals hold it to ransom and turn the state into theatre of death, undermining the development efforts of this administration,’’ it said.