YENAGOA – Suspected militants on Monday attacked the location of the newly-activated Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, in Bayelsa State, and killed three soldiers.
The incident, which reportedly occurred about 9.30am, took place at Tombi Jetty, Ogolomabiri in Nembe Local Government Area of the state.
The militants were also said to have made away with military gunboats, rifles and other ammunition, after an ambush on the operatives stationed at a checkpoint.
The checkpoint, it was learnt, is located at the community’s entrance and had been in existence since the era of militancy in the Niger Delta.
It was also learnt that heavy sounds of gunshots allegedly fired during the surprise attack unsettled the community for about 30 minutes.
The situation was said to have thrown the residents of the community into panic, as many of them who initially thought the area was under siege ran in different directions for safety.
It was further learnt that the gunmen, who stormed the area with unspecified number of speedboats, dressed in white uniform to deceive their targets of their real intentions.
Their immaculate white dresses, it was learnt, were designed to create an impression that they were members of a white garment church on a funeral procession.
A resident of Nembe, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was widespread fear in the community.
The source said, “The attack was deadly and well planned. Nobody had expected that such a thing would happen at such a time when the jetties were busy with people preparing to go about their businesses.
“I am sure even the soldiers did not expect such an incident to happen at that time. Some persons who were already sailing out of Nembe said they saw the gunmen but thought they were mourners because of the way they dressed.”
The source added that following the attack, some residents in Nembe started fleeing the community while others were thinking of following suit due to widespread fear of reprisal by soldiers.
Reacting to the killing of the soldiers, the Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Bayelsa State chapter, Chief Nengi James, condemned the attack, wondering why an attack of such nature would occur in broad daylight.
According to him, the military needs to be vigilant to prevent the stealing of its arms and ammunition to perpetrate violence in the state and in the region.
The embattled President, Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide, Udengs Eradiri, condemned the killing of the soldiers.
A military source, who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorised to speak, confirmed the development.
He said the leadership of the ODS, angry at the development, immediately deployed two Alpha Fighter jets to go after the suspected militants.
“Operation Delta Safe has cordoned off the road leading to Nembe. We are on the trail of the criminals and there is no way they can escape. The maritime comportment is also involved in combing the creeks,” the source said.
But calls to the Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre, ODS, Lt. Col. Olaolu Daudu, were not responded to. Also, a text message to his mobile phone was not responded to as of the time of filing the report.
A year ago, on August 8, suspected militants had launched an attack on the same military formation, killing five soldiers and carting away arms and ammunition.