From Ben Dunno, Warri
Notorious criminal camps, especially those of the dreaded cult gangs that have terrorised residents of Sapele and its environs, were yesterday destroyed by soldiers.
The joint operations of the military carried out by the Army and the Navy, with support from the DSS, Civil Defence Corp and local vigilante groups, saw men and officers of the various formations invading identified black spots in Sapele and interior settlements to flush out criminals in the area.
The sting, which entered its third day on Tuesday, started with intelligence gathering with the DSS on Sunday, followed by raiding of strategic locations where the criminals converged regularly to plot their dastardly acts.
At a remote Sapele community, called Ojolu, the soldiers invaded a hideout close to the bush where numbers of able-bodied youths were seen converging as early as 9 am indulging themselves in hard drugs and gambling.
While five of the miscreants were arrested on the spot even after attempting to escape through the bush path, others who were deviant to the warning shots by the soldiers managed to escape, as the soldiers were not out on a mission to ‘aim and kill’.
It was, however, a different story at Orapa by Oluafo Road, where hoodlums who built their hideout inside a thick bush, engaged soldiers in a fierce gun duel in a desperate move to escape.
While three of them were apprehended after being pursued inside the bush, one of them who was hit by a bullet despite warning shots to stop, laid critically unstable as at the time of filing this report.
All the items recovered during the two days of intensive raiding including; cut to size locally made guns, bags of Indian hemp, cash and charms were being held as exhibits while their makeshifts camps were razed.
The 19 Battalion, Koko, under the Sector 1 Command, Operation Delta Safe, that led the Joint Ops, disclosed that the operation which was backed by the Army hierarchy and Delta state government, was aimed at bringing the crime rate in the Sapele area to its bearest minimum, if not completely wiped out
It commended the efforts of men and officers in the operation so far and called for the support of Sapele residents in diverging useful information that would aide the ongoing operation to rid Sapele and its environs of violent crime.
Residents of these areas expressed gratitude to the security operatives for the operation and the efforts being made to rid the area of violent crimes that had instilled so much fear in the people, as they no longer sleep with their eyes closed.
At Ojolu area, an elderly woman who identified herself as Mrs Julie Onokpite, a trader along the major road the Joint operatives invaded, commended the security men for the initiative adding that the entire area had been under the siege of bad boys for a while.
According to her: ‘We have had to contend with these criminals in this area for quite some time now because we have no choice and nobody to cry to for help as we lived in fear of attack if you talk or expose them.
‘But with this kind of initiative by the military to invade their camps and destroy them, we can now heave a sigh of relief that the crime would reduce and we pray that the security operatives would sustain these operations from time to time in these places,’ she stated.