Rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday it had received reports suggesting hundreds of people, mainly civilians, may have been killed in a week-old Nigerian military offensive in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
Nigeria last week launched its biggest military campaign for years in the western delta, bombarding militant camps near the town of Warri from the air and sea before sending in hundreds of troops to try to flush rebel fighters out of local communities.
Amnesty said the highest death toll was believed to have come when the joint military taskforce (JTF) in the delta used helicopter gunships to attack communities around a major militant camp close to Warri last Friday.
“According to reports received by Amnesty International, hundreds of bystanders including women and children are believed to have been killed and injured by the JTF (military) and by the armed groups while shooting at the JTF,” it said in a statement.
The Nigerian army has repeatedly denied using excessive force and has said that no innocent civilians have been killed or displaced.
“We are applying minimum force,” military spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar said on Wednesday.
“There are no casualties on the civilian side. Whoever is injured must have taken part in the fighting. It means they are criminals and if we get them, we will arrest them,” he said.
Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumogobia told reporters on Wednesday the government was doing all it could to minimise the loss of lives.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS