BAYELSA, Nigeria – Men of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), code named Operation Delta Safe (ODS), Friday, invaded the Bilabiri community in Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, which led to the killing of key suspect in the murder of Four Naval rating a fortnight ago
OgeneAfrican gathered that the attack, which was launched today morning forced some residents to flee into the creeks for safety, and some parts of the community burnt during the search for some suspects.
Though, no reason had been given for the onslaught that left debris of burnt thatched houses and buildings behind, but sources said it may not be unconnected with the recent killings of four Naval ratings and abduction of foreigners in the area.
It was gathered that the military stormed the community at about 10:am in about nineteen gunboats.
They were said to have shot sporadically into the air before setting ablaze selected houses in both communities including the palace of the paramount ruler and those of suspected ex-militants.
The troops, according to sources, claimed that they were on the trails of hoodlums behind the killing of some service men two weeks ago along the Ramos River.
The military operation in the volatile area was said to have lasted more than three hours causing many residents to flee their homes and took refuge in the mangrove.
OgeneAfrican also gathered that first week of January, unknown gunmen killed four Naval ratings and abducted two foreigners at Agge coastal area, close to Bilabiri community. The incident occurred when the gunmen seized a dredger escorted by the operatives of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS).
The gunmen attacked the Sterling Global Dredger causing heavy gun battle between them and the ratings. The gun battle, which reportedly lasted for hours led to the killings of the four ratings with others sustaining injuries.
The gunmen seized the dredger and abducted two Russian nationals and one Indian.
Meanwhile, a resident from the area, who spoke in confidence, confirmed the military invasion, describing it as sad.
He suspected the incident to be a revenge mission, but said it was unfortunate the military always chose ugly paths whenever a crime occurred in an Ijaw community.
Also, the Ekeremor Federated Youth Council (EFYC), through the President, Mr. Etolor Prince, frowned at the ongoing destruction of Bilabiri community by soldiers, describing the action of the military as unprofessional.
He said: “The ongoing military invasion at Bilabiri community is one too many occurrence in Ekeremor LGA and It is so sad that I have to once again condemn this continuous unprofessional act of the Nigerian military at the slightest provocation.
“It is so sad and annoying to note that, one will never see them carrying out this practice in the north where our brothers in the military are killed on duty every now and then but our case here is nothing to write home about. They (military) should know that this approach is nothing working and will never work.
“Please, it is high time the legal luminaries in our region stood up to this injustice meted on our people. I strongly believe, legal actions can go a long way to tackle this menace.
“At this juncture, please permit me to sympathize with the people of Bilabiri I & II communities for the loss and I urge government at all levels most especially well meaning leaders to immediately come to the aid of our people in any way possible to cushion the immediate hardship caused by this attack.”
When contacted, the Spokesman, ODS, Eromosele Unuakhalu, for further explanation and reaction, he promised to get back for clarifications.