Ben Dunno, Warri
Military operatives of Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) have arrested a member of a notorious sea pirate gang that attacked and killed four naval personnel who were on escort duty onboard MV Ambika and kidnapped three foreign oil workers on the sea off Ramos River in Bayelsa State.
The joint military team, which had been on the trail of the assailants since January 2, the day the incident was reported, were also able to rescue three expatriates who had been in captivity of the criminals for almost a week.
The OPDS Command vowed to spare no effort in ensuring that the rest of the gang members involved in the currently at large are brought to book to serve as deterrent to other criminals in the region.
Briefing reporters at the NNS Delta Base in Warri on return from the rescue mission, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, warned criminals along the country’s waterways to desist, declaring that the military would leave no stone unturned in flushing them out.
According to him:
“On 2 January 2020 some suspected sea robbers attacked a Sterling Global Oil vessel, MV AMBIKA about 3.2 nautical miles off Ramos River entrance and in the process, a gun battle ensued leading to the death of four naval ratings and some of the assailants, while other members of the gang escaped with bullet injuries”.
“During the incident, the assailants abducted three crew members of MV AMBIKA comprising one Indian and two Russians and moved them to an unidentified location in the creeks”.
“Accordingly, the Central Naval Command of the NN in conjunction with the land and air components of Operation Delta Safe immediately embarked on a manhunt for the perpetrators of the dastardly act, as well as search and rescue operation to free the abducted Russians and Indian”.
“Following intelligence report on the activities of the group and their plans to relocate the victims to Ondo state, military units across the Niger Delta region were placed on red alert while the criminals were constantly been monitored”.
“At about 22:30, January 7, intelligence report revealed that the abducted victims had been moved to a location around Awoye in Ilaje LGA of Ondo state”.
“Accordingly, personnel of the Forward Operating Base Igbokoda were alerted of this development and laid siege for the criminals. In a surgical operation, the NN team rescued all abducted expatriates comprising two Russians and one Indian”.
“Also, one of the assailants was apprehended with his weapon and the boat that was used to convey the victims, while other members of the group fled into a nearby Creek with bullet injuries. They are presently being hunted down with the support of the community youth.”
“The rescued victims have been given medical attention by a team of doctors from the Nigerian Navy Hospital, Warri and are healthy”.
“I wish to use this opportunity to earn all criminals operating I the Niger Delta that the Navy is poised to rid the region of all forms of illegality and would not relent until the perpetrators of this dastardly act are brought to book”.
“I urge all well-meaning Nigerians to continue to carry out their legitimate businesses as the Nigerian Armed Forces would ensure the right atmosphere is created for legitimate businesses to thrive.”
Speaking on behalf of the released oil workers, Varunraj Anaandan, an Indian, thanked the Nigerian Armed Forces for coming to their rescue, noting that they were particularly happy that none of them sustained injuries during the rescue mission.
He described the experience in the hands of their abductors as torturing and traumatic, as they were subjected to all sorts of hardship in the creek, adding that their release by the military has brought them a relieve.
Notable among the commanders who participated in the rescue operation was Rear Admiral Ibrahim Dewu, the Commander NNS Delta, who was said to have played a major role in terms of logistics and intelligence gathering all through the operation.