Republic authorities confirmed today that a number of mercantile vessels of Amarr origin were destroyed several days ago within the borders of Minmatar space in the Osoggur system by an apparently anonymous fleet of unmarked ships.
In a statement to the press this morning Parliamentary Minister for Internal Security Shokur Geruth made a concerted effort to distance the government from these events. "We regret that this incident has taken place," he said. "I can confirm that neither the Republic Navy nor any of our law enforcement agencies were responsible. We would like to offer our assurances to the Amarr Empire that we take the matter very seriously and that we will do our utmost to identify and bring those responsible to justice."
Geruth went on to confirm that preliminary analysis of the wreckage discovered in Osoggur indicates that as many as five ships of Amarr construction may have been destroyed. He also explained that a number of life pods containing survivors had been retrieved by local system authorities. When questioned by the press regarding the nature of the presence of the Amarr in the system Geruth refused to comment, although he admitted that a number of the Amarr survivors were assisting the authorities with their enquiries.
Many believe that the Amarr ships may have been part of a convoy that intended to round up Republic citizens to feed the massive demand for slaves back home in the Empire. In the last three months there have been numerous incidents concerning the kidnapping or the sudden disappearance of Matari people at outposts, colonies and stations along the Republic's border with Amarr space, many of which have been linked to the presence of Amarr vessels in the same vicinity. So far there has been insufficient evidence to prove any cases of these 'slave-running' activities to the satisfaction of either Republic or Imperial authorities, but rumours to continue to circulate and tensions continue to build.
The Imperial Embassy on Illiun III released a statement several weeks ago to say that the Amarr authorities had 'not given any authorisation for trespassing into Minmatar space' and that they would 'willingly assist the Republic with any ongoing investigations into proven cases of illicit kidnapping or slave-trading.' Many Matari commentators believe however that the Amarr are in fact doing nothing to curb these types of activities and that they may even be quietly encouraging them. Midular's government has so far been careful not to make any formal accusations, but many wonder how long this political stance will last.
In a separate press release issued shortly after Geruth's statement, representatives of the Amarr government expressed concern and made a number of disparaging remarks regarding the Republic's inability to control its own people. "We are disappointed that Prime Minister Midular is unable to gaurantee the safety of the commercial interests of other nations within the Republic's own borders," they said. "We will be seeking apologies and suitable compensation on behalf of the relatives of the deceased."
Speculation is also rife concerning the identity of the ships responsible for firing on the Amarr vessels. Some tribal militias have become quite vocal about taking matters of defence and safety into their own hands, but none of these factions have come forward so far to take responsibility for the attack. Merchant capsuleer Jadow Togith responded to distress calls on his route through Osoggur and arrived in time to see the attackers finish off the last of their prey before they warped away. In a witness statement corroborated by his own ship logs he stated that although the craft were clearly Minmatar in origin, they were devoid of identifying marks or recognisable transponder signals. More controversial were his comments regarding their behaviour: "Their deployment was striking," he noted. "I spent some time with the Navy in my youth and their formation and tactics were definitely familiar."
It is not yet known how long the other survivors and witnesses will be held for questioning, but it is thought likely that it will take at least a few weeks for local authorities in Osoggur to complete their preliminary investigations.