Nigeria - Niger Delta Militants attack and kill 7 JTF members


Gunmen in a commando-like operation Thursday attacked a contingent of the Joint military Task Force (JTF) and Marine policemen along the creeks and waterways of Brass and Nembe Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State, killing an army officer, two naval ratings and four policemen in two separate attacks.

In both cases, the gunmen were said to have approached the Marine Police checkpoints and the boats conveying the military personnel and opened fire on them without provocation, killing the men instantly.
The slain army officer, Lt-Col. A. Malik, was the Commanding Officer of the Brass Unit of the JTF.
Also in Yenagoa, two bomb explosions on Wednesday night rocked Biogbolo and Opolo areas forcing residents to flee for their dear lives.
The shooting of the JTF personnel came barely a few days after President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the neighbouring Koluama to assess the damage done by gas explosion from an offshore well belonging to the nation’s second largest multi-national oil company, Chevron Nigeria Limited.
THISDAY gathered that the four policemen were killed at the Marine Police checkpoint at the Nembe River at about 7am, while the army officer and the naval ratings were gunned down at the Okpoama River junction at about 10am, three hours after the first  incidence, on their way to Ogbia Waterside.
Okpoama is former Governor Timipre Sylva’s country home and Ogbia waterside is a few minute’s drive from President Jonathan’s Otuoke country home.
THISDAY checks revealed that the action might have been carried out by the same gang as the tactics employed in both attacks, witnesses said, were the same.
But given the professionalism employed by the gunmen, military authorities were last night, said to be looking at the direction of pirates operating along the same waterways as being responsible for the attacks.
The JTF has recorded a lot of success in their operation against pirates in recent time.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Olakpe, was in a mournful mood when contacted on the incident.
He could not speak, but the spokesman of the state Police Command, Mr. Emokpae Eguavoen, an assistant superintendent of police, confirmed the incidence.
He said the corpses of the four policemen killed by the gunmen had been recovered and deposited at the mortuary.
Also confirming the killings, the state Chairman of the Marine Workers Union, Comrade Lloyd Sese, and the Special Adviser to the state Governor on Security Matters, Lt. Col. Bernard Ebipai, said the attacks might make the waterways unsafe again.
According to Ebipai, “Only one military officer and two naval ratings were attacked along with other passengers in a boat at Okpoama junction of the Brass-Ogbia route of the river. We cannot confirm if they were killed.”
In his reaction, the Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, said the attacks remained “unconfirmed” as the JTF was awaiting “full report” on the matter.
Meanwhile, the state government has said there were no lethal explosions in the state on Wednesday, adding that youths playing with fireworks in jubilation after the England and Netherlands football match were responsible.
But THISDAY gathered that the explosions might not be unconnected with the decision of the state government to stop the payment of allowances to youths under the vigilante group known as Bayelsa Volunteer and the ex-militants.
The payment to the Bayelsa Volunteers has been in place since the administration of D.S.P Alameiseigha and continued under the Sylva’s administration.
In a statement, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the reported dynamite explosion was not correct.
“The story is not only malicious but an outright falsehood. The fact is that there was no explosion. What was misconstrued as explosions were mere knockouts thrown around the streets by merry-making youths and okada riders who were celebrating the defeat of the English national team by their Dutch counterpart in an international friendly match,” the statement said.
According to him, “It therefore beats the imagination of government that an innocuous act of our youths was hyped to mean bomb explosion by enemies of Bayelsa State. It is clear that the motive of the mischief was to cause fear in the minds of Bayelsans and create a negative perception in the minds of prospective investors that Bayelsa State is unsafe for investments and tourism.
“Government wishes to assure Bayelsans and all investors that no amount of propaganda and mischief by enemies of progress will distract the administration of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson from delivering on his restoration agenda to the good people of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation.
“Government therefore calls on Bayelsans to ignore the explosion falsehood and go about their lawful businesses without any fear of molestation as government has put in place security to secure lives and property across the state. Governor Dickson and the various security outfits like the JTF, police and State Security Service are working assiduously to ensure that Bayelsa State is at peace.”

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