The Department of State Services has taken over Umuanyi Forest near Aba in Abia State, where it said unidentified 55 shallow graves were discovered recently.
Not less than 55 identified persons were said to have been allegedly buried in the graves by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra.
The DSS on Saturday accused the members IPOB of engaging in kidnapping and extrajudicial killings.
IPOB is being led by Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who is being prosecuted by the Federal Government for alleged treasonable felony.
The secret service further accused IPOB members of the kidnapping and killing of five Hausa-Fulani men whose remains it said were buried in the same forest.
But the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, another pro-Biafra group which rose in defence of IPOB, dismissed the allegations by the DSS as lacking merit and evidence.
A statement issued by DSS spokesperson, Mr. Tony Opuiyo, in Abuja on Saturday read, “Service has uncovered the heinous role played by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra in the abduction/kidnap of five Hausa-Fulani residents, namely Mohammed Gainako, Ibrahim Mohammed, Idris Yakubu, and Isa Mohammed Rago at Isuikwuato LGA in Abia State.
“The abducted men were later discovered at the Umuanyi Forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves, amidst 50 other shallow graves of unidentified persons.
“Arrests and investigation conducted so far revealed that elements within the IPOB carried out this dastardly action.”
With this action, Opuiyo said it was pertinent to alert the general public that IPOB was gradually showing its true divisive colour and objectives, while steadily embarking on gruesome actions in a bid to ignite ethnic terrorism and mistrust amongst non-indigenes in the South-East region and other parts of the country.
Following this act, the DSS alerted that tension was currently rife among communal stakeholders in the state, with possibilities of spillover to other parts of country.
The agency warned that it would not hesitate to act decisively within its statutory mandate to ensure that the sponsors and perpetrators of “this action are apprehended and prosecuted for their crime.”
The new leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu, in his response via a text message to one of our correspondents, stated that MASSOB and IPOB would remain undeterred on their agitation.
He said, “DSS allegation against pro-Biafra agitators lacks merit and evidence because MASSOB and IPOB are non- violent organisations. This is the highest frustration exhibited by Nigerian security agents against pro-Biafra agitators; they want to blackmail us as violent or terrorist group in order to get evidence against Nnamdi Kanu.
“MASSOB and IPOB can never be deterred or get jittery because of frivolous and baseless allegations by frustrated DSS. Why have they not raised eyebrow on several killings and destruction of properties by Fulani herdsmen?
“We advise Igbo governors to immediately summon a meeting of stakeholders on the menace of Fulani fundamentalists.”
A senior operative of the service, who was involved in the operation that led to the discovery of the graves and the forest, said on Saturday evening that the forest had become a no-go area for unauthorised people.
The security agent said, “The forest has become a security zone. We have taken over the place. It is an offence to see people who have no business in the area for now.”
The source said the operation was carefully planned and executed by the security outfit.
“A Good Samaritan blew the lid on the killings that happened there and how people were hurriedly buried in the forest,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added.
On how the identity of those buried in the graves would be known, the agent said the service might conduct an autopsy or find alternative ways to identify the corpses.
“I’m sure we would find a way of doing that (identification of corpses). If it requires that (autopsy) may be we would do it,” the operative said.
The source however refused to give the number of arrests that had been made, saying operation and investigation were ongoing.
Meanwhile, the Abia State Government on Saturday denied knowledge of shallow graves in any forest in the state.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Abia State Governor, Mr. Godwin Adindu, said that the government would investigate the alleged discovery.
He said, “We don’t have such a report; there is no such report here. The DSS has not given us the report. We don’t have such information. Even within the populace here, nobody has raised such alarm.”